Perfume Blogger Interview with Vanessa Musson of “Bonkers About Perfume”!

Vanessa Musson is who I want to be when I grow up: a hilarious British lady with an ancient cat who weaves fascinating tales from her ceaseless travels across Europe. (I’m still working on the British part.) I squeal with delight every time I see a new post on Bonkers About Perfume, because I know that whatever the subject matter (a rock concert in Germany, an afternoon spent scampering around London with Katie Puckrik, the usefulness of various types of bubble wrap), Vanessa will find the humor and the wonder in the everyday oddities that the rest of us so often miss. It is an honor and a pleasure to share this interview with the impossibly cool Vanessa.

Why do you write about perfume?

For eight years I used to write a humorous column in a business magazine about the weird stuff that routinely happens to me on my overseas work trips.   (I am a market researcher, specialising in industrial products, many of which are also inherently a bit weird.)   Quite by chance, the closure of the magazine in the recession coincided with the onset of my perfume mania. So in hindsight – although I didn’t make the link till now – starting the blog may have filled a “creative writing vacuum” at a time when I had very little work, but was resisting the temptation to fritter away the hours watching daytime TV.   Then over time, as readers will have spotted, the travel writing crept back in… : – )  In fairness, though, it is the business trips that afford me my best sniffing opportunities, as well as some great chances to meet fellow perfumistas, so the two are inextricably linked really.

 Why did you not tell us you wore glasses??? You look so cute in glasses!!! 

My goodness, do you really think so? I hate myself in specs, because they make my eyes look even smaller, which they can ill afford to do. Given that glasses are supposed to be all about magnification, this has always struck me as a cruel irony. (Would you believe I have to pay a surcharge for my contact lenses, as the ones that fit my abnormally small eyeballs are made in correspondingly small production runs!) But at least my current pair of semi-geek glasses have distractingly bold frames, such that people may not notice the lack of eyes beneath.

What are your favorite perfume houses?

In terms of my “strike rate” with different perfume houses ie liking a high proportion of their offering, I would have to say Ormonde Jayne is right up there, as in my view their relatively compact range is as close as it gets to the fragrance equivalent of a capsule wardrobe. After Ormonde Jayne, my “strike rate” is more hit and miss, so here it is a case of being strongly drawn to a few scents in a range and tuning out to the rest. In this category I would include (in no particular order) Parfumerie Générale, Hermès, Ajne, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Chanel, Guerlain, Kenzo, Jo Malone, Penhaligon’s and Bvlgari.  Additionally, Dior and Van Cleef & Arpels have recently snuck onto this list on account of their niche collections.

Special mention should also go to perfume houses who are “nice people” to deal with, whether it be the perfumers themselves, or their PR person, in-store staff etc. Ormonde Jayne, Puredistance and Penhaligon’s all score highly here, also Sonoma Scent Studio, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and Andy Tauer.

What is your favorite place to shop for perfume? 

There’s an inherent contradiction in this question, for as the owner of 70+ bottles I really shouldn’t be allowed to shop for perfume at all, and do my best to curb the urge. It is a bit like asking a drug addict about their favourite place to shoot up.  : – )  So given the fact that I am meant to be on the wagon most of the time where fragrance purchases are concerned, the answer to your question has to be “the cheapest place possible”, by way of damage limitation. So that means Ebay for the most part, with occasional lapses at online retailers and airports, like this week with a bottle of Violet Blonde at Stansted.

 Your Basenotes username is “VM I hate civet”, but rumor has it that you’re softening on your former nemesis. Have your perfume preferences changed in any other ways recently? 

You are absolutely right about my doing – if not a 180 exactly – certainly a 60 degree turn on civet lately, though I am not ready to resniff Caron Narcisse Noire any time soon. I seem to have the knives out for lavender at the moment, as exemplified by the “pointy sprig” monstrosity which is Chanel Jersey. Conversely, I have a higher tolerance for sweet perfumes than I used to, and am slightly relaxing my hard line on heliotrope.  Age-related hormonal changes may be a factor, but don’t ask me how!  The good thing about all this is that my other screen name of flittersniffer cuts me a lot of slack when it comes to such flipfloppery. I think it would still be fair to sum up my taste as “not too much of anything, please”.  With exceptions even to that rule, obviously!

What are some of your other interests outside of perfume?

Well, I would say Pilates, but my teacher just emigrated to New Zealand, so that’s the end of that then. Plus I had to make myself go every week, even though I felt virtuous and floaty afterwards. I would also say drinking gin, but I have had to cut that right back lately due to unrest amongst my red corpuscles. So I will just say knitting (a constant “thread” since I was seven), reading (thrillers and contemporary fiction mostly – nothing too worthy or with too many pages or too small print these days), and music (indie and jazz fusion).

What perfumes are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree/Menorah branches this year?

Well, I’d have to say none, because my immediate circle think I have enough perfume to last me several lifetimes, such that I don’t even harbour hopes in that direction. What I would like to find under the Christmas tree is another story – a bottle of Guerlain Plus Que Jamais that some sale assistant miraculously found knocking around in a store room somewhere, or a bottle of Dior New Look 1947 or PG Bois Naufragé would do very nicely, thank you.  Come to think of it, I wouldn’t throw Prada Candy out of my stocking either.  Now a little elf did let slip that Mr Bonkers has got me some rare vintage examples of perfume merchandising material for Christmas.  The bidding on Ebay went way over the cost of actual perfume apparently, so I do have high hopes for these mystery items!

The aforementioned ancient cat, Charlie Bonkers, pictured here with the first of Vanessa’s perfume refrigerators!
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25 thoughts on “Perfume Blogger Interview with Vanessa Musson of “Bonkers About Perfume”!

  1. I just adore Vanessa so thanks very much for this lovely interview, Ari. Vanessa’s Bonkers posts are always so entertaining I know I’m in for a good read when I see on Facebook that there’s a new one up on the blog. I really enjoy the travelogue aspect too.

  2. I very much enjoyed reading Vanessa’s blog, so I loved learning more about her. Great job on this fun interview, Ari and Vanessa. It made for a perfect Monday morning reading.

    1. I’m so glad that we could provide you with some good Monday reading, Victoria! Anything to make Mondays more enjoyable 😀

  3. Ah, the Spirits of Perfume are kind: Ari and Vanessa in one jolly post:-)

    Thanks for the resulting smiles and cheerfulness.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

    1. Thank you so much for reading, Anna! It was so fun to read about your adventures with Vanessa on Bonkers- your coat is awfully cute 😀

  4. Enjoyed reading the interview – Ari and Vanessa, thanks to both of you!

    Now, to business. Vanessa, when somebody says you look good, the proper response should be “Why, thank you!”, not the explaination why you think it’s not so! 😉 Take good things from friends and leave it to your enemies to think/say bad ones.

    Vanessa, you look so cute in glasses!

    1. SHE LOOKS SO CUTE IN GLASSES!

      This is such wise advice. And it doesn’t just apply to looks! I think that people are just as likely to downplay their talents or good qualities. One must be one’s own best advocate!

      1. Hi folks,

        Nearly missed this post as am in a remote spot in Ireland with my iPhone and an intermittent Internet connection! That is good advice about accepting compliments with a good grace – my mother used to tell me the exact same thing, and I don’t seem to be very good at heeding it… : – )

  5. My favorite comment right here: “There’s an inherent contradiction in this question, for as the owner of 70+ bottles I really shouldn’t be allowed to shop for perfume at all, and do my best to curb the urge. It is a bit like asking a drug addict about their favourite place to shoot up.”

    Oh my goodness, that made me laugh. Kudos to both of you for a fun interview. (And Vanessa, I love the glasses. Just work it!)

    1. So… is she saying that you’re NOT supposed to ask drug addicts about their favorite place to shoot up?? 😉

      So glad that you enjoyed the interview, Dionne!

    2. Dionne, thanks for the vote of confidence about my glasses. I don’t know if I “work them” quite yet, but I am “working on it”!

      : – )

  6. Ari, now the Internet signal has come back up, I also wanted to thank you for including me in your blogger interview series, for the lovely introduction, and the interesting questions!

    I must say though that it is more a case of: “when I am middle-aged”, for you are one of the wisest, most deep thinking and grown up 20 year olds it has been my pleasure to “meet”. Whilst retaining a youthful zest for life, appetite for fun and ebullience – yes, that’s the very word – that should be bottled and routinely swigged by us oldies, or “oldiers”, anyway. There’s L’Air du Temps….so why not L’Air d’Ari? : – )

    1. Actually, that name would make a better perfume than a tonic drink such as I was envisaging, though there may well be a place for both. : – )

      Yes, the Ari-essence health drink I had in mind would be like one of those coconut water blends, or a flavoured water with a hint of pomegranate and goji berry, but would taste nicer and have superior properties, obviously.

  7. Ari and Vanessa together = :-))

    Vanessa: you do rock those glasses. I too need to learn to consistently use Undina’s advice.

    Being increasingly myopic since childhood I know what you mean about the lenses making ones eyes look smaller. My only consolation was at least the technology improved over time and so they never ended up being of coke-bottle thickness. Side benefit of severe myopia: cataract surgery at a relatively early age. As I now have bionic eyes (ha! just that the implanted lenses are prescription) it’s just super- inexpensive glasses for reading.

    Charlie looks as if he thinks something he was interested in scurried into the fridge to hide. Or is there a particular scent he’s waiting to pounce on?

    1. Wow – I envy you your bionic eyes… : – ) I agree that Charlie looks in pounce mode. Maybe Charlie the scent, if I had it!

  8. Vanessa writes humor so darn well (as do you, Ari!), and I admire that … it seems like it should be an easier, breezier way of writing, but really it’s quite challenging to do so without sounding sarcastic or potentially offending a large segment of people. One sort of has to have a knack for it, and she does: her posts are always great fun and really bring the reader along for the ride (quite literally since she is always crisscrossing Europe. I keep wondering, will we see her in Russia next? — and rather hope so, as that would be exciting!) 🙂

    At any rate, great interview with the unflappable Miss V!

    1. Humor is pretty tricky, Suzanne, and PG humor (which is what I aim for) is even harder! Vanessa has such a great, observant sense of humor, and I especially respect her for never being cruel to the butts of her jokes.

      1. Hehe – I thought PG was “Pierre Guillaume” humour to begin with. That’s like when I took Charlie Bonkers to the vet and in her medical record it described her as DSH (Domestic Short Hair), but in my parallel perfume universe my first thought was of course Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

  9. Another Vanessa fan-girl signing in here. You and Bonkers About Perfume are wonderful, V. I hope you carry on blogging. And, thank for the interview, Ari!

    1. Aw shucks, Natalie! And the fan-girl feeling is mutual… ; – ) And yes, Ari is a star for having come up with the idea of bringing us together in this way.

  10. Adorable interview with one of my favourite blogo-people! Vanessa is a riot and you Ari have highlighted just what makes her tick.
    And all my wishes for finding a bottle of Plus Que Jamais under the tree this Xmas! 😉

  11. Thanks for posting the interview, Ari!

    I remember the day I went Bonkers for Vanessa : it was the bubble wrap episode. At that time I didn’t realize Vanessa was the “I hate “Civet” gal of previous online chats (and that whole Lush Perfumista Profile thing).
    I agree that the specs look great (but I understand the small-eye woes–we should compare prescriptions one day…)
    Have lovely weekend!
    Cheryl

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