Once I took a drawing class. It turned out that I couldn't draw worth beans, but it permanently changed the way I saw visual art. Thanks to the class, I understood that every stroke of the paintbrush, every smear of charcoal is a choice. I saw that a painting is more than an image and maybe a story, but rather a series of choices of color, technique, perspective, and subject that an artist makes to achieve a certain end. Thinking about why the artist made those choices makes art so much richer for me.
Similarly, it's nice to know something about how a perfume is made and the stories around it. I like reading perfume reviews and then smelling the perfume to see if I can pick out the different notes. I like knowing that Edmond Roudnitska labored over creating the smell of lily of the valley for Diorissimo and even planted them in his yard so he could compare, and that Jean Claude Ellena has chosen to limit the palette he works with when he creates a fragrance. I like thinking about fragrance trends — for instance, the in-your-face perfumes of the 1980s or the dry green chypres of the 1960s and early 1970s — and linking them to the fashion and attitudes of their eras. It's interesting, too, to listen in on the debate of naturals versus synthetics.
But I have to wonder, is it possible to go too far in learning about perfume and so squeeze the romance right out of it? Can a perfume lover get too "in his head" about fragrance and end up losing perspective on its beauty?
Here again, art is a good analogy. Some people visit an art museum and wander through the galleries enjoying what they see. They might listen to a docent and, ideally, see more in a work of art and appreciate it more deeply. For other people, though, a trip to a museum becomes all about what paintings are "good" or "not his best work" or "a rare example" or knowing obscure biographical details of the artist. The pleasure of experiencing takes a back seat to thinking.
For perfume, I want to balance honing my awareness and appreciating what I smell with learning about it. I may never know what the heck Iso E Super is, but I want to be able to recognize the surprise of citrus and bay set against ylang ylang and appreciate it. And although I love imagining Royal Bain de Caron used in voodoo rituals, I don't want to know whether 27 or 67 ingredients were used to make it.
For you, what is too much information about perfume? Do you like knowing its chemical composition? Do you care which critics like it? At what point does too much knowledge take the fun out of it for you?