Journalism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you get to satisfy your inherent curiosity about the world. On the other, you end up committed to awful gonzo stories that feel like picking at a scab – you know you shouldn’t do it, but you can’t quite help yourself.
This one falls into the latter category.
There I was, sitting in a weekly editorial meeting, wisely not volunteering myself for anything. Then someone mentioned a story about Eau D’Ometer, a perfume made to capture the smell of Melbourne traffic. “Can we get a bottle and I’ll wear it around the office?” I blurted out, not really thinking.
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That very same day Broadsheet’s general news reporter, Doosie Morris, dropped a small vial on my desk, courtesy of creators Metascent. A quick sniff at the nozzle turned my stomach. Smoke. Chemicals. Something a bit putrid. It’ll smell different on your skin, I told myself, not really believing it.
After delaying for the better part of a week, I spritzed some Eau D’Ometer onto my wrist (one of the industry’s suggested application spots) and did a lap of the office, asking people to, um, smell me. In the interest of doing a proper impartial test, I didn’t tell anyone about the scent or its concept, just that I was trying it for an article, and could I please have your impressions?
“I could like it, because it’s reasonably subtle.” – Robert Jakovac, financial controller
“It’s quite fresh. Quite everyday. It reminds me of the outdoors, of coming back from the country for the weekend.” – Sian Whitaker, general manager
What? To me this thing was objectively gross, and anything but subtle. I needed to ask more people. Specifically, people who would validate my revulsion.
“Kind of smells like smoke. I don’t mind it. I think it’s kind of nice.” – Simone Crick, Studio director
“That smells like whisky. Smoky. – Sinead Stubbins, branded content editor
“Too smoky. I do like smoky, but it’s a bit much, it’s overpowering.” – Carly Nanos, Access program manager
“It’s almost good at first, then it gets dusty and cigarette-smoky. The longer you sniff, the worse it gets.” – Amelie Mills, product director
“On the initial smell it’s quite sweet, and then it just goes south. It’s like Sauvage, that Johnny Depp fragrance with Dior. It’s a weird man-smell.” – Lucy Matthews, video producer
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Eau D’Ometer does have actual wood smoke in it, which is supposedly on-trend for men’s fragrances.
But I have to wonder: is it unfair to smell-test something at such close range? Most of the time we experience a person’s perfume from a step away, not with our nose five centimetres from their skin. Perhaps this was causing the heavier, more unpleasant aspects to take over and ruin the whole scent? Hence the comments that it’s “initially” or “almost” good. Hard to say. Even when I ask people to whiff from a bit further away, the results are mostly negative.
“I hate it. It smells like sour pine.” – Todd Rogerson, people and culture manager
“It smells like a candle. Like … your mum’s bathroom.” – Scott Renton, Scout editor
“It smells like Leather. You know that [Tom Ford scent] Ombre Leather? I think it suits men more than women.” – Sarah Bullock, senior growth marketing manager
“I don’t like it. It’s a bit musty. Like your cupboard’s been closed for a bit too long.” – Emma Beevor, sales and partnerships executive
“It’s a bit intense. I don’t like it. It gives me the same vibe as Gucci Guilty, which I reckon is one of the worst smells ever.” – Jade Bailey, sales and partnerships manager
“That’s disgusting. It reminds me of some kind of ointment you’d put on bites as a kid, like Calendula Cream.” – Christina Voss, strategy and solutions director
“It smells like a freshly printed receipt. It’s good … I think?” – James Williams, creative solutions executive
“I feel like it could go two ways. If it’s a nice brand, it’s one of those herbaceous style ones. Then on the other hand, because I heard what James [Williams] said, it reminded me a little bit of a doctor’s office smell. I feel like I’ve smelt that in 19-69 perfumes. – Claire Booth, group sales and partnerships manager
Claire’s comment strikes me as insightful in an unexpected way. There are countless studies on the perceived value of wine, and how drinkers consistently say more expensive wine tastes better, regardless of what’s actually in the bottle. I’m sure the same is true with perfume – without seeing the bottle or knowing the price, people aren’t quite sure what to think.
I decide to test this idea and ask three more co-workers (beyond the initial focus group of 15) to smell me. Only these three people were in the editorial meeting and know what the scent is.
“It smells like Bepanthen.” – Tomas Telegramma, Melbourne editor
“That is medicinal. Not good.” – Daniela Frangos, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth editor
“Mothballs!” – Chynna Santos, affiliate and Things to Do editor
Seems pretty conclusive, but I think the real test would be wearing the scent for several hours and letting it fade, rather than whisking it around an office in 10 minutes and forcing people to smell you.
That night on the drive home – stuck in Melbourne traffic, no less – I did that test accidentally. Every time my left wrist came near my nose, I’d get this horrendous whiff of stale cigarettes, motor oil and unidentified chemicals. By the time I got home I had a headache and rushed to the sink to soap up my wrist. Why did I get into journalism again?