Sarah Baker Interviews Perfume Connoisseur Extraordinaire, Glenn Davis (aka @mrcologne76)
Above: Glenn at Guerlain in 2018
If you are on Instagram and interested in perfume, chances are you are following perfume enthusiast, @mrcologne76. And if you’re not, you should be. There is so much rich content. He rolls out a weekly series, Scent Provoking Sunday, where he moderates 700+ comments, inspiring real talk, and in-depth discussion. His newest program, Scenter Stage features live interviews with perfumers, brand owners, reviewers, and fragrance enthusiasts. He posts unboxing videos, original photography, and giveaways. Lots of giveaways!
He’s got momentum. Since I interviewed him in September 2018 (sorry y’all, took a while to get this up), he’s gained 4,000 more followers. This is 100% organic growth, based on genuine passion and interest in engaging with you, me, and all of our extended fragrance community. But behind that enthusiasm is hard work, impeccable timing, and a little help from collaborators such as his real-life girlfriend, @nosey_coture.
I had the opportunity to talk with MrCologne76 about his motivations. He’s clearly motivated! But I was particularly interested to hear about his upbringing, which reveals a lot about his work ethic and his enthusiasm for smelling good.
Above: Glenn, aged 4, raiding his mom's vanity for smelly stuff. One of his favorites was Limacol
SB: When did you start getting interested in perfumes?
MC76: As a very young kid, my first recollection was smell. In Trinidad, we had this product and it was called Limacol. It’s this lime spritzer that they would put on kids if they had a fever; every household had it. At some point when I was a kid I guess I had a fever and my parents put it on me and I was like, “I like the way this smells.” So, I would always sneak into their room and put a little bit on myself.
SB: Would you say that might be your first fragrance obsession?
MC: Fragrance awareness. For sure it was that thing – Limacol.
SB: I listened to the Scent Gents podcast interview with you, and I very much enjoyed hearing you talk about your dad’s enthusiasm for fragrance, and growing up on a farm in Trinidad.
MC: My dad is a very enterprising, dedicated father. He had principles he wanted us to live by and he didn’t really waver from those principles—such as punctuality, good attendance, being respectable, working hard, studying—so my dad represents that in me. And he always wore fragrances. I remember growing up his perfume of choice was a perfume called Trouble by Mennen. I used to sneak into his room and put a little dab of it on. When I was 17, my family moved to New York and at that point my dad started buying more fragrances and I was also given my first perfume—it was Elizabeth Taylor, Passion for Men. I told my parents the only thing I ever wanted as a present was a fragrance. I got a little part time job and start buying more fragrances for myself—and anyone in my family. My dad also started expanding his fragrance choices. Back then he was wearing a lot of Drakkar. He had Burberry. He also had some Avon fragrances because of one of his jobs. So I had quite a few Avon fragrances, but I don’t remember the names. That was the birth of my collection of fragrances.
Above: Glenn with his mother and father in Tobago, 2018
SB: I’m picturing you as a young boy on a farm. Was your dad a farmer?
MC: Well, believe it or not, both of my parents are registered nurses like myself. So, even though they could have afforded us a great life just by being nurses that wasn’t enough for my dad. So we had the farm and my parents did nursing and they took care of us. I come from a family of four kids and two parents. My weekday routine was getting up, helping on the farm, then taking care of the dogs because my dad bred shepherds, and then taking a bath and getting ready for school. Mom would make breakfast and next thing you know you’re out the door to school.
SB: And they went to work?
MC: Yes, both my parents were nurses so one of the first things my dad taught us was, you had to take care of your responsibilities at home, you had to do well in school and you better be on time to catch that ride to school, because if we weren’t ready you had to walk to school that day. In Trinidad it was probably a little over a mile. But for a little kid, it’s a long walk. And if you weren’t ready, dad wasn’t waiting. So, because of that, I’ve always been punctual. I’ve always prided myself on punctuality and just being able to keep my word is really a big thing to me. So, dad instilled that in me and he instilled the fact that, don’t just be happy with what you have but always be striving and working harder to get more.
Glenn wearing a shirt he made himself. Glenn's father taught him how to sew when he was 14 years old.
SB: Essentially your dad taught you: work hard and smell good.
MC: A long time ago my dad joked, “I might not always look good, but I will always smell good.” I mean, my dad is a handsome man but it was just the fact that I loved fragrances so much that that statement resonated with me. I have said it often throughout my life. I might not always look good, but I’ll always smell good. I’m almost always wearing a fragrance.
SB: One of your signature hashtags is #idontseegenderinfragrances For the sake of educating someone who doesn’t really understand that, could you explain what “I don’t see gender in fragrances” means to you?
MC: Sure. When I got involved heavily with niche perfumery, I realised that there was usually less distinction between what’s made for a man and a woman. A lot of niche fragrances are unisex, so I started appreciating notes that in the past were traditionally more feminine, or marketed more for females. At one point I just realized that I felt just as comfortable and elated wearing certain fragrances even though they may have been marketed for women. My feeling is that the designer brands did this to target a particular audience. However, when you truly appreciate perfumes and their compositions, you look past that marketing and you wear what you feel like. And if one day I want to smell like roses, I’ll do it. If one day I want to smell like Jasmine, I’ll do it. If I feel like tuberose, I’ll do it. Typically, if something leans towards the feminine side, it unfortunately means it’s more floral. And when something is more to the masculine side, it may have oud, leather, it may have sandalwood, myrrh, you know. Not that those notes aren’t feminine, but typically they are heavier in their scent profile. So unfortunately, most people still identify feminine fragrances being the florals. And when it’s a male fragrance, it’s still identified as being heavier. It is a distinction that I’m hoping goes away to be honest. I want people to start looking past the stereotypes.
Above: From the @mrcologne76 Instagram account, a selection of Glenn holding niche and indie perfumes
SB: Your current Instagram bio says, “Ordinary people discovering extraordinary fragrances”. Ordinary people might not be very niche-experienced, or aware of fragrances other than what is fed to us by the gigantic multi-billion dollar fragrance machine. Do you see yourself as a sort of advisor or educator of alternative fragrances?
MC: My purpose—or my goal—when I got on Instagram was to create a sense of community amongst the fragrance enthusiasts. For many years I thought I was a rare thing, a person with 50 fragrances. I always had a sizeable collection. And when I discovered the fragrance community on Instagram, I realized I’m not abnormal. This is pretty normal and I want to be a part of this community and I want to lead this community. Another thing I realized was there was so many great fragrances that I didn't know existed and the only way I found out was on YouTube. So, I wanted to bring that knowledge to Instagram. I wanted to be one of those places where people can discover new fragrances, small independent perfume houses, such as @houseofsarahbaker, @ImaginaryAuthors, @4160Tuesdays, or @BrunoFazzolari. In my opinion, these houses have great talent, great fragrances and I wanted others to discover them. That was my driving force.
Above: @mrcologne76 and @noseycouture at the Silver Lake Marina, Texas in 2018
SB: Scent Provoking Sundays is a weekly special where you engage with your audience. You always say, "Let’s have a conversation.” And you do. You are very present, responding to every comment and asking more questions. Sometimes these threads exceed 800 comments on a single Instagram post. Why are you engaging with your audience so deeply?
MC: Well, with regards to Scent Provoking Sunday , it was born out the fact that one day I legitimately had a question. I was like, you know what?, I’m going to ask. I think the question was, “As a man, do you compliment other men and their perfumes?” I had a genuine question and I asked it—and I really like the fact that I was able to get some genuine opinions and thoughts from people in the fragrance community. And people’s personalities started emerging and that was the birth of Scent Provoking Sunday. I’ve done it every weekend since then, and I feel like I have gotten to know some of these people just based on the tone of their responses. I also wanted to be able to give people an opportunity to experience some fragrances that they probably can’t get their hands on. So, I do giveaways and I’ve had winners from several different continents.
SB: You’re really offering a service to people who don’t know that much about fragrances, or who don’t have opportunities to go to shops like Sephora or @TigerLilyPerfumery...
MC: I would caution against saying necessarily that these are people who don’t know about perfumes. It may be more so that they don’t know about certain perfume houses. Because there are so many people in the perfume community that are way more knowledgeable than me and that’s kind of one of the new frontiers of my platform. It’s that I’ve started working with some people in the community because I have recognized their passion and expertise within certain aspects of perfumery and the fragrance community. I started working with them to produce content because I just feel like being able to produce something and putting it on my platform offers them a stage. When somebody has in-depth, intelligent responses to my instagram posts on a consistent basis, it gets my attention and I’m like, wait a minute, this person is knowledgeable, this person has a passion to be shared. My Instagram account is something I have built myself. I was never put on anybody’s accounts and highlighted and it was something I always wanted. One of the things I want to do is to be able to offer other enthusiasts that are just now starting their journey on Instagram an opportunity to get some more attention. So that is part of what I do on Instagram as well: working with other accounts that have the same ethic and passion and drive, and providing them with a bigger stage.
Above: visit @mrcologne76 for a plethora of useful information. Join the conversation!
SB: You certainly have established yourself. You’re also doing meet-ups which is also next-level interaction with anybody who is following you on Instagram and is in the area. All are welcome to join you. Fragrance experts is one thing, but why do you open up to the general public?
MC: Because I was there at one point. I remember looking at YouTube videos, getting yellow sticky pads and I would have reviewer A and his list of fragrance and reviewer B and their list of fragrance and then I would sit down and, if there was a fragrance that was mentioned by three or more reviewers, it was something I needed to check out. Over time, I realized I had a similar scent profile taste to certain reviewers. I felt comfortable buying things just based on their reviews. I felt comfortable reaching out to them and saying hey, what do you think of XYZ, you haven’t spoken about it, but have you smelt it? So I wanted to be able to do that for people. A lot of these fragrances are extraordinary in my opinion and we are all regular, ordinary people, including myself—but we like extraordinary fragrances and that’s one of the main reasons why I do what I do. I want it to be a place where someone at any stage of their fragrance journey could come on board and discover extraordinary fragrances.
Glenn would like to dedicate this interview to his father.
Thank you, Glenn, for such an enjoyable and thought-provoking conversation. It was such a pleasure learning about your background and inspiration.
To learn more about @mrcologne, head over to ÇaFleureBon. Editor-in-Chief, Michelyn Camen invited him to write a guest column as part of its Fragrant Awakening Series. This is a wonderful piece with loads of fantastic photos.