Everyone’s journey to scent is different. Everyone’s story is different. For some, fragrance has always been part of their identity. For others, the idea of fragrance manifests itself later on in life, but becomes heavily pronounced and defining for them as they age and learn to appreciate the fifth sense they’ve taken for granted.
Deric Metzger is a San Diego-based jewelry designer who, from a young age, already knew he was in love with fragrance. In the first article in this series of fragrance fanatics, we’re going to learn about Deric’s journey
Deric’s first memory of scent comes from nature, from the “gathering storm clouds.” As he says, “I’ve always loved the rain and that minerality and petrichor richness.” The fragrance that reminded him most of that was Aspen by Coty, which was worn daily by a beloved elementary school teacher who inspired creativity within him as a youth.
As a young boy, Deric acknowledges he’s been a fraghead. “I begged my parents for my first colognes when I was still in elementary school.” (You go, dude!) His first foray into owning fragrances had him wearing Aspen, Drakkar Noir, and Boucheron. Upon the launch of Givenchy Pi in the 90s, “I was instantly in love,” he said. “I easily went through a bottle or more each year like clockwork until the mid ’00s. No matter the season, it was my signature.”
His love didn’t stay within the wearable stuff, though. Deric dabbled with fragrance through scented candles and incense. Perfume wasn’t even on his radar at the time and developed a bit later as he discovered more opportunities to smell good.
A self-proclaimed “sentimental soul,” Deric acknowledges that his senses of smell and taste are heightened. “It was very easy for me to develop scent memories,” he explains, “not just from artificial memories but from the real world.” Being able to use perfume as a means of “lock[ing] in those precious memories” was of great importance to him, so he started collecting.
First, he had what he considered “an unreasonable number” of “about 14 or so.” But over time, that number grew.
And grew and grew and grew.
Deric explains what happened next: “Between … major life events over the years both positive and painful, I had curated a small collection, a scent memory portfolio, that has served me as I have grown to over 350 different bottles. The portfolio has become a library of memories that I go out of my way to link to certain people and events to lock them in my mind.”
Scent has a profound impact on him for other reasons too. With the recent discovery of Alzheimer’s and dementia running in his family, remembering all scents is an imperative for him. “Cementing those scent memories for me now has become less of a curiosity and more prescient: insurance of a kind, just in case.”
“[My] portfolio has become a library of memories that I go out of my way to link to certain people and events to lock them in my mind.”
Today, Deric says that Givenchy Pi is the fragrance he’d consider his defining one. But of course, it has changed and is only “a shadow of its former self,” so he’s no longer wearing it. “Givenchy Pi will always be my first love and one of the scents I feel inexorably enmeshed with. I feel most confident and authentic draped in spices and aromatics and deep boozy ephemera, and Pi was my holy grail. It went with me through my predictably banal teenage angst and striking out on my own and becoming the creature I intended to be (more or less).”
As for what he defines as his daily defining fragrance, well, what you see here is only part of his collection–can a guy with this amazing collection ever settle? In fact, he agrees with this. How does one become defined by a fragrance when they now have the ability to wear a different one nearly every single day of the year? His favorites consist of spicy oriental gourmands and scents that have high projection–those are the closest to a signature scent for him. “I appreciate the orphans, the unusual and decadent compositions like Xerjoff’s Ceylon and Terenzi’s Laudano Nero, and Areej’s Oud Picante,” he says. “They don’t just satisfy my need to be unique enough to trigger a scent memory, but they satisfy my sweet tooth for the exotic.”
He’s got a lot of favorite notes to speak to his collection too: Tobacco, Incense, Cade, Basil, Bitter Almond, Cinnamon, boozy vanilla, Labdanum, Beeswax/honey, blackberry, Cambodian Oud, Osmanthus, Oppoponax, Tolu Balsam, Amber, Myrrh, Artemesia/wormwood, Tuberose, deep jammy roses, and dry exotic spices. And up next, Deric hopes to purchase Hyde by Hiram Green (on my wish list too!), Music for a while by Frederick Malle, Roja Parfum De La Nuit 2, and Boadicea’s the Victorious Kings Road.
As a jewelry designer, Deric can certainly say that fragrance is just like jewelry: another accessory. “I see it as a piece of clothing, or a pendant, or a hairstyle. It communicates in a way that no quippy t-shirt or neck tattoo can.” If you run into him on the street, “you would find me in beat up jeans, a plain black t-shirt, punctuated in diamonds and drenched in perfume.” (I’ll be looking for you, Deric!)
As for what excites him beyond fragrance, it’s the small things in life.
Peace and quiet.
All green lights.
And… “perfectly reasonable philosophical discussions that devolve into absurdity after a few cocktails have gotten involved.”
Even though his role at work has him “on the clock 24/7/365… obsessive traits aside, the most valuable thing in my life that makes me happy is connecting with people beyond the surface level. I don’t care what your favorite color is or where you ate lunch last week, tell me something dangerous and true.” He explains that this phenomenon comes from the dictionary of obscure sorrows and is called Adronitis. “When I get those rare moments, getting into a discussion about what makes us tick before we know each other’s full names … is me at my happiest.”
Fragrance certainly brings us lots of happiness and joy. But Deric reminds us that there’s more to the experience than the act of collecting. “If my opinion matters at all, I would say this: we as a community tend to get so caught up in the collecting and the batches and the snobbery, that I think many of us may have forgotten the wonder and the joy that felt so instinctual at first and what drew us to this unusual passion. Stop memorizing the notes and the batch numbers and the status, and start spraying with your eyes closed and your nose and heart open.”
Indeed. The fragrance industry appeals to the super enthusiast but also the casual wearer, someone who owns one or two signature styles and keeps at it for years (a la young Deric). We mustn’t forget about the experience itself, because that’s why we’re all here to begin with.