Orchlon Narentsetseg kindly let us host a live feed on the hugely successful Facebook group he founded seven years ago, now the largest Facebook fragrance lovers group in the world. The Mongolian Fragrance Lovers Group has an astonishing 210,000 members and it’s all down to the passion and commitment of Orchlon. Even more astonishing, Orchlon is an international lawyer by trade and still finds time to share his love of fragrance with the group, as well as writing extensively on the subject. We asked him four simple questions and his answers gave a fascinating insight from his childhood in Mongolia to his first fragrance purchase in a California mall.
What perfume question do you get asked most often?
Most of our members are in Mongolia since I write my articles and reviews etc in Mongolian. We also have many thousands of members residing abroad, so I often get asked various questions about perfumes in general. Yet, the question that has been asked millions of times is about how one should recognise authentic brand perfumes. I used to be very irritated by this question since I try my best to devote my time to have our group members develop a true appreciation of the art of perfumery and share with them the wonders of the world of fragrances: I mean all those deep and finer things. Yet, I also realise that asking this question is probably first step for them to become true fragrance aficionados in the future. Buying and selling counterfeit perfume is still a big problem in many parts of the world. So I don’t really mind it anymore. I wrote a long elaborate article on the subject and I send it to anyone who asks.
What’s your first scent memory?
When I grew up, there was really no one in my family who wore perfumes. I am talking about seventies and eighties. During that time, acquiring a real French perfume (or any respectable brand fragrance) in Mongolia was a mission impossible. Older generations were only able to wear some Russian made fragrances because of our communist ties with Russia. Yet still, those who wore them were the extremely privileged and lucky ones since Mongolia before nineties was very much like today’s North Korea. So my experience is not unique. My generation mostly grew up with the smell of nature, so to speak. Then something happened. In early nineties, the former communist countries started to open their borders. Many Mongolians went abroad for the first time in their lives. Some of them quickly understood the principles of market economy and started doing cross-border businesses, buying and selling things out of their suitcases.
So one day (when I was in my mid-teens then) I saw a man selling something that looked like a very interesting can of smelly thing. I had no idea. It turned out to be an “Axe” deodorant! In particular, the one I smelled was called “Africa”. (It is still sold today at some grossers.) When I sprayed it in my hands and brought it close to my nose, I swear that I was instantly transported to Africa. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a thick jungle with monkeys jumping around and exotic birds singing loudly. Of course, that time, I had not yet seen the beauty of real Africa. (Later in my life, I traveled there many times) But, because of my mom who was a teacher, I spent most of my childhood in reading world classics such as the works of French novelist Jules Verne.
So when I smelled that deodorant, all my imaginations about those distant and dream worlds I read from books came alive to me. This experience lasted only few seconds but I never forgot the feeling. So this is how I first fell in love with the world of fragrances. I could not of course afford to buy that Axe, let alone getting myself any real perfume for many years.
What was the first fragrance you bought?
This question leads me to the next chapter of my fragrant journey. After graduating from law school and having worked for the prosecution for couple years, I won a scholarship to study law in the US in 2001. So after finishing a gruelling first semester of my master’s degree program, I wanted to treat myself with something nice. Then I saw a beautiful bottle of Versace at a local mall in California. This was Blue Jeans by Versace. I got so smitten by it at my first sniff and I had to buy it. Even though, it was a very expensive purchase for a penniless law student, every drop of it was worthy. Sometimes, I see Blue Jeans (retails about 20-25 USD) still being sold in Europe, after all these years.
By the way, I love to share these fragrant stories that left so many memories in me.
What does perfume mean to you?
When I started collecting fragrances, I saw myself simply as a collector enjoying his hobby. Yet, over the years, this took a life of its own and grew so much more than I initially pictured.
While collecting perfumes, not only did I love the beautiful smells with which I was showering my body, I also gained so much knowledge about… well everything, such as arts, high fashion, world history, geography, and flora and fauna etc. Indeed, I get so much pleasure in reading about the history behind a bottle of perfume, starting with the meaning of its name etc. I also encountered some works of art that I could not simply dispose of and discard its flacon. They are indeed too precious. So I started dreaming about opening a museum of luxury perfume, named after my mother.
Mowadays, I am only collecting those perfumes that are culturally, historically and aesthetically significant: those I deem worthy to be proudly presented at my future museum.
While I don’t currently have the financial resources to marshal towards building a big museum, I believe that passion always wins at the end. So I am going to start fulfilling my dream by, at least, collecting the exhibits now, and, maybe 5-10-20 years later, some miracle will happen when I plan for the building. So this hobby has really transformed itself to be one of the important life goals of mine.
Moreover, this has also became something that makes me genuinely happy, relieving all my daily stress and helping me to take a break from the troubling times in which we are living. Lastly, what I am most thankful to the art of perfumery is the fact that I get to meet with all those wonderful perfumers, creators, brand owners and writers. I enjoy so much listening to their inspirations, reflecting the uniqueness of their art. For example, I recently met Michel and Clara of Le Jardin Retrouvé on Facebook. I was extremely fascinated by their story and thus I cannot wait to put my nose on the sample set I ordered few days ago. I am really excited to discover this brand and looking forward to seeing them in person in Paris someday. To sum up, perfume means so much to me, obviously.
Thank you so much Orchlon. We can’t wait to welcome you in Paris one day!