We’re not into perfume; strong scents give us a headache. If you want to make us leave a room immediately, send in a guy doused in cologne. We don’t care how gorgeous he is or whether his perfume was distilled by Carthaginian monks who had taken a vow of silence and worked only by the light of a waxing gibbous moon, we’re outta there. We’ll put up with the stench of a kitty litter box because we have to, but prolonged exposure to Chanel No. 5 makes our head start pounding.
That said, we really enjoyed Perfumes, the A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.
Luca Turin is a biophysicist who studies the science of smell. We learned about him from TED. This book is a field guide to nearly 2,000 perfumes in the market, written in a style that combines erudition and wiseassery.
It’s an excellent shopping companion. A couple of years ago we field-tested this book by going to designer boutiques, sniffed their perfumes, and then reading the corresponding reviews. Aloud.
For instance, at Hermes we asked for a whiff of Osmanthe Yunnan, which gets a 5-star rating from Turin and Sanchez. Then we read, “When Jean-Claude Ellena, now in-house perfumer at a little saddler’s outfit called Hermes first did the soapy suede-and-apricots scent of the osmanthus flower for The Different Company’s Osmanthus, it was like one of those deceptively simple, pretty Paul McCartney melodies that seem so obvious once heard, you suspect he finds them lying fully formed in the street…” If the sales staff found us strange they hid it well; then again we are strange. We also went to Marc Jacobs and clucked over the perfume that only merited 3 stars.
Among the perfumes that get a 5-star rating are Angel, Aromatics Elixir, Badgley Mischka, Cool Water, Cuir de Russie, Dior Homme, Dune, Eau Sauvage, Knowing, Kouros, Secretions Magnifiques and Ubar.