Ban Perfume from Restaurants 
Monday, September 23, 2013 at 8:11AM
Linda Johnson-Bell

We used to have non-smoking sections  - so why not "no-perfume" sections? You laugh. I jest not. This is a serious rant for me. The other night we went to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons for dinner ... that's a big deal for us. We were sitting in the intimate, original dining room. I was in a state of rapture, eating my risotto with truffles, sipping a stunning Chablis from the Domaine Oudin, when in walks a couple who then sits at the table next to us


the perfect truffle risotto

As she wafted past me, it was an assault on my senses. I literally felt a wave of nausea that hit my knees and my head started to pound. I waited until she sat down and settled herself, hoping that when she stopped moving, she’d stop wafting. But no… the odour remained. Even husband noticed. My tongue was covered in her perfume and I could no longer taste the truffles, my nose was blocked and the steely Chardonnay lost in a cloud of sickly sweet roses. I had to ask the waiter if we could move into the conservatory – very embarrassing. The sommelier came over to see if I was alright and I explained, in French, so as to not offend my offensive neighbour (who clearly had not yet mastered her mother tongue of English). He said that the entire room smelled of it. And he reminded me that his wine training forbade any scent of even after-shave at a tasting. 


Aberdeen Angus - cut with a fork

We were installed in the large, airy conservatory and continued with our meal… stunning grouse and Angus beef with a sultry Nebbiolo from Langhe (La Spinetta). All was going well, we were about to place our pudding orders, when a young couple was brought in and placed next to us. Again, same song and dance, but not as bad. We nursed the last of our wine and decided to have pudding at home (and at £24 per pudding, this was a good decision).

Why do women think that it is appropriate to force their scent upon us, unsolicited? Don’t they know what a PERSONAL HYGEINE PRODUCT is? That is the origin of perfume …it was PERSONAL … intimate… to cover a lack of bathing… but it was only meant to be smelled by someone standing very close to you – not by everyone within 20 feet or more.

And what happened to clean, soap-smelling skin? I love skin. I prefer to smell a slightly feral body odour than a concoction of chemicals. We rely on our sense of smell more than we know – at least I do. And we can tell so much about a person by their smell – all subliminally. When I am confronted by a person covered in scent, it is as though they are wearing a mask – concealing themselves from me.

Women today use perfume as a fashion accessory. They want everyone to know how much they spent on scent. When I tell a woman that she has too much scent and that it is making me ill (yes, I tend to do this in cinemas, on planes …in any confined public space, in fact), usually, her immediate response is “but it is so-and-so, it cost a fortune – it is really good”. They are missing the point. I don’t care how expensive it is, too much of even “good” perfume is too much. Period. Further, even the most expensive scents are full of chemical and synthetic irritants. When I was living in Paris, one of my jobs found me in the Chanel labs, where I quickly learned that they were making make-up and scent for dozens of other clients – that it is all the same stuff. There are NOT 50 different ways to make a lipstick.

Anyway. Ladies, please, stop harassing me with your obnoxious, ignorant over-use of perfume and ruining my meals, my films, my travel …and the older you get, and the weaker your sense of smell, the more you seem to put on. Restrain yourselves.


LJ JOhnson-Bell

Article originally appeared on The Wine Lady & The Wine and Climate Change Institute (
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