Several years ago, I became interested in essential oils. I had a small but varied collection, and loved inhaling the strong aromas straight from the bottle. One of those bottles wouldn’t give up its scent – cypress.

I made many attempts to smell the cypress oil with no result. I wondered if I couldn’t smell it because the oil was a 10% dilution in jojoba, but that didn’t make sense. I didn’t have any trouble smelling 10% dilutions of rose, immortelle, frankincense, etc. I was puzzled.

Flash forward to 2010. Before me are a number of perfume samples. The sample I am most excited to try is DSH “Hinoki”. I wanted a woodsy perfume that went beyond the pine forests I spent years camping in as a youngin’.

Chamaecyparis obtusa AKA Hinoki AKA Japanese Cypress

I applied the perfume generously and lifted my wrist to my nose. I breathed in….nothing. I waited a moment and sniffed again. I smelled something like wet wood, but it was very faint. Further sniffs revealed a sharp fruity note, some frankincense and cedar, even a little oud, but all of the notes smelled as if they were under a wet wool blanket.

Again, I was quite puzzled. Why couldn’t I smell Hinoki? I continued to sample the perfume but nothing new was ever revealed to me.

Shortly after trying Hinoki, I sampled two more DSH perfumes – “Festive” and “Silver Fir”. When I applied Festive, my husband commented that it smelled nice. I could barely smell it.

What I could smell of Silver Fir was pleasant – citrus, frankincense, cedar and sandalwood. These notes were a bit clearer to me than what I could smell of  Hinoki, but again, the fragrance was faint.

Abies amabilis AKA Silver Fir

My experience of Festive (notes of fir and spruce) was similar to Silver Fir. I could smell a clove-like note, frankincense and sandalwood, but I couldn’t smell anything reminiscent of the forest.

This was not a phenomenon unique to my DHS perfume samples. Other perfumes I sampled and couldn’t smell the forest for the trees include:

Agraria Balsam (fir balsam and cypress notes) – smells faintly woody, mostly herbal with a touch of fruit. I can barely smell it.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume Sierra Solid Gold (fir note) – Smells like yummy smoke, like a bonfire built with cookies.

and most recently…

Comme des Garcons Wonderwood (too many to mention) – According to the ad copy, this fragrance is an “overdose of woods”. I must have built up a tolerance to wood somehow, because I smell virtually nothing, save a bit of something dry and lemony.

Six Scents, Series One, No. 3: The Spirit of Wood (hinoki) – Spirit indeed! A eucalyptus and fig leaf scented ghost.

IUNX L’ether (rosewood, white sandalwood, maple wood) – Smells mostly of roses and myrrh. I think I can smell the maple wood. I have fond memories of the scent of maple logs burning, the sweet smoke filling the kitchen. I smell a similar sweetness in L’ether.

Its been about ten years since the cypress oil incident, but only a few weeks ago did I consider I might have specific anosmia. I wasn’t too happy about it but I didn’t have time to wallow in self-pity – it was pushed to the side by work deadlines. Then I decided to go back to school and got caught up in registration and course selection. I also started Christmas shopping.

This weekend, I sampled Wonderwood, Spirit of Wood and L’ether again, only to be frustrated by my inability to fully smell the perfumes. Then I read *Michelle Krell Kydd’s recent post on Glass Petal Smoke about a woman with anosmia and her experience with Opus Oils’ revolutionary new fragrance *”Eau Pear Tingle”. After learning about the challenges people living with anosmia face, I can hardly complain about not being able to detect a few odours.

I now have a renewed appreciation for the things I can smell. Pine forest, will you ever forgive me?

*Special thanks to Michelle Krell Kydd. If you want to learn more about anosmia and all things olfactory, I highly recommend visiting Glass Petal Smoke and following her Twitter stream.

*I haven’t sampled Eau Pear Tingle, but I am very intrigued! Opus Oils’ perfumer Kedra Hart has opened my eyes to the fact that olfaction is much more “sensational” than I realized.

*Hinoki and Silver Fir images from The Gymnosperm Database. Hearth image from Rolling Along.