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Perfumes- A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez
I was inspired to purchase this book having seen it on display in my local Lush shop carefully page marked with all the Lush entries. I had a quick flick through the book in Lush and decided that it looked sufficiently interesting to justify me buying it.
This is a pretty chunky paperback with over six hundred pages and well over one thousand, five hundred different perfumes reviewed alphabetically. I love the fact that this is done alphabetically as it makes it so easy to look up a specific perfume should you want to use the book in this way.
The book is so much more than an alphabetical list of perfume reviews though and this is what makes it worthwhile for me. I love the reviews but combined with all the rest it is just so much more worthwhile. You could read this from cover to cover but I haven't. I read all the written chapters about perfume and how we think of scents but the list of perfume reviews I pick a couple now and then, or I look up specific perfumes or brands and read those while enjoying a sit down and a cup of tea or coffee.
Luca Turin is a scientist who has been working with the sense of smell and has created his own controversial theory about how we smell things. He is the author of 'The Secret of Scent' and the subject of the book 'Emperor of Scent'. I do have his other book but have not read the one about him.
Tania Sanchez is a perfume collector (an dream job in my view) and an expert on perfumes as well as being a journalist.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
"Page after page of wonderful, evocative, poetic prose that will get the most diffident sniffer salivating." - Suzi Feay -'Independent on Sunday'.
"On one level this is a serious, instructive tome. On the other it is an addictive, dip-in-and-outable romp through some of the greatest and worst scents ever produced." - Caroline Jowett -'Daily Express'
"No-one can doubt that they've written a work of the highest cricism, one which elevates writing about perfume to the best sort of writing about wine or rock music." - Philip Hensher -'Independent'
I really liked the fact that this is so much more than a series of reviews. At the end of the book there are a number of lists. These cover a range of things. The one I found most useful was the glossary of materials and terms used in perfumery. Many of the ingredients have scientific names and this glossary explains what some of these are which I have found handy in my review writing and also has helped me to understand what they have written in their reviews too.
The lists of 'Top Tens' are also fun and range from 'Top Ten' for each of male and female scents and then you also have a list of 'Best feminines for Men' and vice versa. I was pleased to see one of my favourites, 'Breath of God' by Lush was mentioned in the list for 'Best Bang for the Buck' and also in the list for the 'Best Strange Fragrances' as well. Interesting to see a perfume named after 'Derby' coming up in 'Best Big Ticket Splurges'. When I investigated that one it seems it is created by Guerlain and came in an ugly bottle but they reckon it is one of the ten best male scents of all time!
At the back we also find an index or list of all the perfumes covered in the book according to the star rating given by the authors. It is fascinating to read about how they chose the perfumes and how they wrote the reviews. They both smelled each and every one firstly on paper blotters then on skin, usually on both of their skins for one day. They then discuss their views and if there is a disagreement they either both write their views or the most interesting viewpoint wins the day or one converts the other to their way of thinking.
I loved reading Luca Turin's history of perfumes chapter where he explains how perfume manufacture has developed over the years. He does say in this chapter that natural and synthetic materials are both used in perfumes but that "if you smell them, pure natural raw materials are more interesting than aromachemicals.....because naturals are mixtures of tens, sometimes hundreds of molecules and our nose recognises this as richness and depth." He does go on to say that there have been great creations in synthetics that are not available naturally and of course some like musk are more consistent , cheaper and kinder than using animal products.
Sanchez has a number of chapters early in the book and I loved the way she thinks of perfume. She discusses whether perfume is a science or an art. The perfume manufacturers of course create combinations of aromas to perfect their scent and psychologists talk of smells and perfume as being about sex and distant memories. However as Sanchez comments if a woman chose her perfume to attract the attention of a man she would be better off wearing the smell of bacon cooking!
Interestingly the ability to compare and discuss perfumes and scents has developed rapidly since we are all able to access the internet and share our views . This has also led to an increase in sales as the more we talk about things the more we want. I am often tempted by good perfume reviews to go and buy a bottle.
Another interesting discussion was that unlike many art forms perfume once smelled is lost forever. You cannot get what you have used back in the bottle. It is also something that you need to experience first hand really to enjoy. Reading about a perfume only gives you a limited experience. The scratch and sniff things in magazines are a great move forward but maybe they will find how to send smells through the computers too in the future! It is hard to share unless you actually have the perfume to try.
Testing what is right for you is another helpful pointer and she says do not test more than a few at a time in the shop then choose one to try on you and leave the shop. That way you get a good idea of that perfume on you and how it develops as your nose isn't confused by multiple messages.
Useful information such as the fact that a perfume does deteriorate over time and in the light so there is no point in hanging on to a well loved perfume for years as it will not be the same scent you loved in time.
They share the fact that they love perfume and it is after all an affordable luxury. You can buy cheap stuff or spend a fortune but it still gives you pleasure. If you like a perfume don't worry about the brand, the name or the celebrity endorsement, enjoy it for what it is and the pleasure it gives you.
"As with the tawdriest pop melody, there is a base pleasure in perfume.... It decorates the day. It makes you feel as if the colours of the air have changed. It's a substitute for having an orchestra follow you about playing the theme song of your choice."
I thought that was a great description and describes how i feel about perfumes and scents generally. Remember scent comes in so many of our everyday products from washing up liquid, laundry products to toilet cleaners, air fresheners and scented candles. We are bombarded with scent choices all day long and perfumes are really just one part of this.
There is just so much information as well as the reviews in this book that I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in perfumes and aromas. Many of their reviews are somewhat blunt and cutting but that doesn't bother me as I read them for what they are, the authors' opinion s rather than fact. That is all any review can be and should be and each of us has a different idea or interpretation of what we have smelled.
This is well worth a read. I am keeping my copy as I did in and out of it regularly. Others may read it and think that is enough and pass it one. It will not appeal to everyone but I do think as so many people are interested in scented candles and toiletries that this book will appeal to a wider audience that just those buying perfumes.
Written for the Golden Girl relay team.
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