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Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent Hardcover – November 15, 2011


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Frequently Bought Together

Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent + The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell + Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1 edition (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781611453300
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611453300
  • ASIN: 1611453305
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 5.7 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,597,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

[This book] makes you want to run to a perfume counter and test your impressions against the author's romantic rhapsodies. 

” (Liesel Schillinger - The New York Times)

About the Author

Jean-Claude Ellena has created some of the world’s bestselling perfumes, including “Declaration” from Cartier. He lives and works in Grasses, the French capital of perfume.

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Customer Reviews

You will get to know how this industry is seen by a person with great esteem as a perfumer.
Grazyna
Unfortunately, this book is so technical I often found myself tuning out and having to remind myself to focus on what I was reading.
kauai lei
While touching upon several aspects of the world of perfume, the author's musings are more often than not confusing.
A Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By elboone on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first entered the world of Jean-Claude Ellena, Hermes perfumer, through Chandler Burr's eyes in "The Perfect Scent," and instantly fell in love with this eccentric, sensitive, poetic genius of fragrance. And I was first in line to order Ellena's first book, "Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent." I'm also the first to admit that, after plodding through the first half, Ellena is such an awful writer that he can't keep an admitted perfume freak's attention any longer. I expected (and craved) lovely, lyrical writing and a fascinating education about the creation of perfume for a prestigious fashion house. Instead, I got a set of tedious essays that belie Ellena's intelligence and incredible nose. You can learn more about this man's process, skill and art by taking a whiff of "Un Jardin Sur Le Nil" than opening the pages of this book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book disappoints on several levels. While touching upon several aspects of the world of perfume, the author's musings are more often than not confusing. This book could use a thorough editing. But even then, it would garner no more than, say, 3 stars. Ellena's jumps around the various topics he proposes to answer, and rarely does more than give us cursory opinions. And opinionated he is, showing a marked preference for everything French, what a surprise! He dismisses major creative talent on this side of the Atlantic, and completely misses exciting trends in perfume today, including a return to the use of naturals, especially by boutique perfumers.

Ellena's book is more tease than treatise. Despite some interesting ideas, this book is thin, both in pages and ultimately in content. The tone of this small book is often pretentious and more than occasionally annoying. Prior to purchase, I noted its rather negative reviews. However, my passion for the subject of perfume prevailed, and I bought it nonetheless.

The book is not without merit, and clearly Ellena is a force within the industry. Though not familiar with the perfumes he's composed, I hope he is better at making perfume than he is at writing about it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By kauai lei on February 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with elboone! I also had read Chandler Burr's novel - which I could NOT put down it was so fascinating - and expected this to be equally, if not MORE enthralling, considering it's the work of one of the greatest perfumers of modern times. Unfortunately, this book is so technical I often found myself tuning out and having to remind myself to focus on what I was reading. This is not at all a relatable or fun read. Ellena tends to drone on about very technical aspects of the perfume world in a very uninteresting way. If you're looking for a fascinating book on the world of perfumery, read Chandler Burr, Mandy Aftel, or the "History of Chanel no. 5." Jean Claude Ellena's first foray into the written world of perfume literature was unfortunately a huge disappointment. At least he has other talents!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca R. Allinson on March 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I believe many of the negative reviews for this book are due to a misunderstanding of its purpose. Jean-Claude Ellena is sharing his vision with us. He is letting us into his creative process, so that we might see what being a perfumer means to him. It is like Monet sharing his methods and the thinking processes he uses with us. any artist knows that true art is more than technique.. Understanding that perfumery is not merely technical, but art...art with the intangible, is what is being premised. There is much to learn here. I also believe that this was written in a humble manner. No where did I see arrogance of a preference for all things French. Many of the classic perfumes he mentions here are French...try to name some early classic perfumes that are not. It is a lovely, lyrical book. Other than the charts not showing properly on the Kindle version I bought, it is well translated and I didn't really notice any editing problems. If you are looking for dirt and gossip about the world of perfume, this is not a book for you. If you want to see into the mind of one of the world's greatest perfumers, buy it. You won't be disappointed!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull on March 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I don't love this quite as much as I do Ellena's The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur, which is in many ways a more subjective, personal and philosophical book, incorporating, as diaries do, what the person is doing and the reflections which arise.

This is more of an information giving book - and is as deliciously absorbing, but because it deals more in the laying out of objective facts (as well as subjective experience and interpretation) I was aware, reading from my particular perspective of a few likely errors, and places where I wanted greater precision, explanation and information.

So, for example, in the interesting chapter on extractions of material from plants, he describes in good detail GC (Gas Chromatography), but casually throws in that MS (Mass Spectrometry) is also used, and completely neglects to describe what this is.

In detailing the volume of plant material needed to produce a kilogram of essential oil or aromatic extract, there is surely an error by a factor of 10 between the amount of plant material needed to produce a kg of lavender in the absolute extraction - he states 100 kg - previously stating 20kg to produce a kg of essential oil. What does he mean, which figure is the right one?

And, to someone interested in the plants themselves I'm afraid I had an annoying botanist's hat on when he was describing the bottles in his lab - `Oui! Oui! Monsieur Ellena is this Citrus aurantium var amara flos, fol or fruct - you have merely detailed Bitter Orange. And, more seriously WHICH lavender'. And so it goes on.
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