Perfumes: The A-z Guide

Paperback | October 27, 2009

byLuca Turin, Tania Sanchez

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Pompous names, bizarre ads, hundreds of new scents a year?the multibillion-dollar business of fragrance has long resisted understanding. At last the first critical?and critically acclaimed?guide to perfume illuminates the mysteries of this secretive industry. Lifelong perfume fanatics Luca Turin (best known as the subject of Chandler Burr?s The Emperor of Scent) and Tania Sanchez exalt, wisecrack, and scold through their reviews with passion, eloquence, and erudition, making this book a must-have for anyone looking for a brilliant fragrance?or just a brilliant read.

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From the Publisher

Pompous names, bizarre ads, hundreds of new scents a year?the multibillion-dollar business of fragrance has long resisted understanding. At last the first critical?and critically acclaimed?guide to perfume illuminates the mysteries of this secretive industry. Lifelong perfume fanatics Luca Turin (best known as the subject of Chandler B...

Luca Turin is a leading scholar in the field of olfactory science. He has twice won the Prix Jasmin, the highest honor for perfume writing in France. He is currently a research fellow at MIT. Tania Sanchez is a writer and avid perfume collector. They divide their time between Boston and London.

other books by Luca Turin

Format:PaperbackDimensions:640 pages, 7.49 × 5.59 × 1.61 inPublished:October 27, 2009Publisher:Penguin BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143115014

ISBN - 13:9780143115014

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not worth a buy but a nice short read While this isn't a book I myself would own and reread for many years, it was an interesting read while it lasted. However the last 3/4 of the book are only reviews of different scents; which the Indigo description does not elude to. It makes it sound like you will delve into a fascinating world of intrigue and perfumery, which you do, but only in the first 1/4. IF the book had been all of the first 1/4 and more, I would have enjoyed this book immensely. But if I ever need a break down of what I am smelling in a perfume or cologne at the counter, this would be a good book to reference. But not to buy.
Date published: 2015-10-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Women's magazines will tell you more There are some books on the clearance shelf that have missed there niche, then there are those that should die there with the funerals only attended by the authors (not even the publisher or editors): this book is the latter. First, there is only 50 pages of actual book (more on that later). Second, of those 50 pages, it lacks a coherent focus, any sort of transition or unification. Why? Third, the authors did not write together but wrote separate interspersed sections that contrast greatly (but NOT in a comparative sense): LT wrote in highly technical terminology and complex structures that should be reserved for those studying chemistry (not indulging even his own notion of perfume being the art of chemistry); TS wrote in insipid prose without conveying any real information (ironic considering her criticism of perfumes' marketing copy). She (TS) is no expert, merely a person who has "written hundreds of reviews on websites" (consumer reviews on open forums; this is about the equivalent of my saying I am an advice columnist because I have answered over 500 questions on Yahoo Answers and have a "best answer" rating on the majority of my answers... Actually, I'm closer: at least my opinion garners public approval!). It is like both wanted to write a book but neither could get a book deal on their own, so they were slapped together (him the brain, her a semi-writer with none) but separated like bad salad dressing, giving you that oily coating in your mouth that prevents the experience of any flavour. Despite her discussion of the changing tide in perfume where enthusiasts are searching for the vocabulary and means of description/understanding to intellectualize perfume's enjoyment much like wine, she offers no explanation. Meanwhile, his technical discussions are beyond the average enthusiast but still leave so much detail out as to never inspire the chemist to grow into a perfumer. There is little for the novice enthusiasts and expert alike. Lastly, their "guide" at the end, a compendium of their "reviews" of perfumes (comprising 300+ pages of the book) are based solely on personal taste with little to no description of the artistry and form of the perfume, making the "guide" useless to the reader, who will have their own tastes. A good reviewer, like a food columnist, can break down the balance and elements within so as to discern that a dish may be technically good despite not fitting in their personal tastes, but neither has such skill with perfume. To be generous, at most read the 3 pages of FAQs (geared to the novice enthusiast), but you can do so in a minute holding the book at the store: do not purchase! You can learn more about perfume from frivolous women's magazines while awaiting your haircut.
Date published: 2012-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A common-scents education I bought this book after reading a glowing review in The New Yorker in 2009, and my copy has become dog-eared from frequent consultation. Turin and Sanchez explain the various categories of perfume, and then go on to either trash or praise more than a thousand perfumes in well-written reviews. The authors are very frank in their opinions - they praise some bargain-basement scents and disdain some expensive, highly-hyped scents. With descriptives like, 'fog horn' and 'Competent but depressing woody-fruity floral aimed at ditzes.', their reviews are a refreshing change from the usual promotional copy that accompanies the release of each perfume. This book taught me a lot; I now have an informed appreciation of the perfumer's art, as well as an improved understanding of which scents are best for me.
Date published: 2011-12-13

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Cool Water (Davidoff) * * * * * aromatic fougèreThis beautiful 1988 composition made Pierre Bourdon famous and was imitated more times, I’ll wager, than any other fragrance in history save Chypre. The problem with successful masculines is that you associate them with the legion of aspirational klutzes who wore them for good luck. Trying to assess CW without conjuring up the image of some open shirted prat with hair gel is a bit like the Russian cure for hiccups: run around the house three times without thinking of the word wolf. This said, unlike Chypre, CW belongs to the category of things done right the first time, like the first Windsurfer and the Boeing 707. Countless imitations, extensions, variations, and complications failed to improve on it or add a jot of interest to this cheerful, abstract, cheap, and lethally effective formula of crab apple, woody citrus, amber, and musk. Now let women wear it for a decade or two. LTL'Air du Désert Marocain (Tauer) ***** incense orientalThe sweet, resinous smell of amber, the smell of the classic perfume oriental, has long been weighed down with vanilla and sandalwood ballast, decorated with mulling spices, bolstered with musk, made come-hither, ready for its closeup, and we are quite used to it—but this is not amber's first life. Perfume, as has been pointed out many times, means “through smoke,” named for the fragrant materials burned to clean the air and therefore the spirit. Since the angel Metatron sees fit to deliver his messages to the world nowadays via the guitar of Carlos Santana, it only makes sense that the as yet unnamed angel of perfume chooses to speak through an unassuming Swiss chemist from Zurich with a mustache and a buttoned shirt. L'Air du Désert is talented amateur perfumer Andy Tauer's second fragrance, after the rich oriental rose of Maroc pour Elle; one hale breath of Désert's vast spaces clears the head of all the world's nonsense. There is something about the ancient smell of these resins (styrax, frankincense) that on first inhalation strikes even this suburban American Protestant with no memories of mass as entirely holy, beautiful, purifying, lit without shadow from all sides. Even without the fragrance's name to prompt me, I would still feel the same peace when smelling it that I've felt only once before, when driving across the Southwestern desert one morning: all quiet, no human habitation for miles, the upturned bowl of the heavens infinitely high above, and the sage and occasional quail clutching close and gray to the dun earth. Each solitary object stood supersaturated with itself, full to the brim, sure to spill over if subjected to the slightest nudge. Wear this fragrance and feel the cloudless sky rush far away above you. TSEternity for Men (Calvin Klein) * * * mandarin lavender An interesting twist on the perennially pleasant citrus-lavender accord using the (musically speaking) flattened note of mandarin rather than straight citrus, or the corresponding sharp of lime. This is a very skillfully composed and likable fragrance, but I wish more cash had been spent on the formula. It smells good but cheap, which would be fine if the overall structure were unpretentious as in Cool Water, whereas it is distinctly aspirational. LTSpellbound (Estée Lauder) * medicated treaclePowerfully cloying and nauseating. Trails for miles. Frightens horses. Gets worse. TSTommy Girl (Tommy Hilfiger) * * * * * tea floralNo fragrance in recent memory has suffered more from being affordable than Tommy Girl. It’s as if it were deemed less desirable for being promiscuous. Despite all the historical evidence to the contrary (Brut, Canoe, Habanita, and the first J-Lo), the world is still crawling with naïve snobs who’d rather believe their wallet’s loss than their nose’s gain. Tommy Girl’s origins were explained to me by creator Calice Becker, who was brought up in a Russian household, with a samovar always on the boil and a mother with a passion for strange teas. At Becker’s instigation, the legendary chemist Roman Kaiser of Givaudan sampled the air in the Mariage Frères tea store in Paris to figure out what gave it its unique fragrance. From this a tea base was evolved, in which no one showed much interest. The idea waited several years until Elléna’s excellent but only remotely tea-like Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (Bulgari) came out in 1993. Its success made it possible for Becker to submit a tea composition for the Hilfiger brief. She won it, eleven hundred formulations later the perfume was finalized, in collaboration with a brilliant evaluator who went on to study philosophy. Tea makes excellent sense as a perfumery base, since it can be declined in dozens of ways, as flavored teas will attest: Soochong, Earl Grey, jasmine, and so on. In that respect it could serve as a modern chypre, a mannequin to be dressed at will. Tommy Girl clothed it in a torero’s trafe de luces, a fresh floral accord so exhilaratingly bright that it could be used to set the white point for all future fragrances. Remarkably, late in the project, Hilfiger’s PR firm asked Becker to give them so e reason to label the fragrance as typically American. Quest’s resident botany expert was called in, and to everyone’s surprise found that the composition fell neatly into several blocks, each apparently typical of a native American botanical. So it goes with projects whose sails are filled by the breath of angels. LT The composition miraculously turned out to fall into accords typical of native American botanicals? Put me on record as skeptical. Tommy Girl smells great, though, and has been copied relentlessly. TSBeauty Rush Appletini (Victoria's Secret) * Jolly RancherVictoria's Secret has determined that its customers need (1) cleavage and (2) to smell precisely like dime-store candy. You may discern an implicit insult to the male mind in this pair of facts. TS

Editorial Reviews

"Ravishingly entertaining. . . . Its blend of technical knowledge and evocative writing is exemplary in the strict sense: people who write about smell and taste should use it as an example."
-The New Yorker

"As vivid as any criticism I've come across in the last few years, and what's more a revelation: part history, part swoon, part plaint."
-Jim Lewis, Slate