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The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York Hardcover – January 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. New York Times perfume critic Burr (The Emperor of Scent) follows the creation of two new scents—Un Jardin sur le Nil by French luxury house Hermès, and Lovely, a celebrity fragrance by Sarah Jessica Parker—in a kind of travelogue through the international perfume industry, one of the most insular, glamorous, strange, paranoid, idiosyncratic, irrational, and lucrative of worlds. The former perfume was conceived by Hermès, informed by a trip to Egypt, then crafted by Jean-Claude Ellena, who represents a breed of ghosts known in the biz as perfumers. For the latter, Parker worked as artistic director of a corporate scent-making team. Burr illuminates perfumery's clash of cultures and values—French artistic purity versus American commercialism. Worldwide, this highly secretive industry's PR machine propagates several anachronistic myths. For example, it insists that perfume ingredients are naturally derived (the overwhelming majority are not, because of concerns about quality control, ecological impact and allergies, among others) and that the big names on the bottles are personally involved in creating scents (perfumers alone typically do this; Parker was a rare exception). Burr makes a strong case that this mythmaking works to the industry's detriment, and that inviting the public behind the scenes might help to reverse the industry's declining sales. Burr's is a thorough and often hilarious account of perfumery's colorful characters, the science and art of fragrance creation and the human experience of scent itself. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Filled with fascinating revelations about an industry built on illusions . . . entices you to marvel all the more at the power of fragrance.” ―The Dallas Morning News
“The Perfect Scent has drama, unforgettable characters, history, and location.” ―Los Angeles Times
“An inside, Hollywoodesque account.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Burr winds his way deep into the secretive, dark, high-stakes world of perfumery, where following the scent can be hazardous to your career. . . . He smells the story in each bottle.” ―Associated Press
“Passionate and captivating.” ―The Toronto Star
“An appealing writer and an acute observer, [who] tells his two stories well.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Filled with fascinating revelations about an industry built on illusions.” ―The Kansas City Star--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
I've read this book TWICE in three days... I honestly keep telling myself this guy HAS to be joking... The amount of money spent on the marketing BLOWS me away! It's friggin INSANE! Makes me NEVER want to purchase another Commercialized HYPED UP brand of perfume again!
I'm now on the prowl for some awesome Artisan Fragrances... from perfumers who are not chained to a desk... whose creativity is not stifled by briefs and bottom line figures. Give me quality! And let my dollars go toward the JUICE... NOT the advertising!
I was also intrigued at the idea that fragrances were all unisex until the early 20th century - prior to then, men and women wore what they liked, rather than what was 'marketed' to them. And finally, finally! I understand why the majority of American fragrances smell the same to me - because they ARE the same (common ingredients in standard proportions)... and also why French perfumes are so vastly different.... and most interestingly, perhaps, is a wonderful and insightful discussion of "naturals" vs. "synthetics" in fragrance, which has forever altered my perspective on what is a 'quality' ingredient.
The only reason I gave the book for stars instead of five is honestly because the very end of the book felt rushed - felt incomplete. Given that it started life as an article in the New Yorker, I'm not surprised... articles and books have different requirements for endings. But I was very sorry to see the creative process that brought Parker's latest fragrance, Covet, to market in 2007 given only a paragraph in the end (though the origins are clearly visible throughout the early creative process and then meetings where IFF is trying to discern Parker's scent preferences. It would have been a nice coda to the original story, or perhaps to weave the Covet story throughout.
I bought the book on the strength of Burr's earlier work, and those who used it (as I did) as a virtual shopping list of fragrances to try will find this book an even better resource. And for the record, Jardin sur le Nil is one of my favorite fragrances, along with Jardin Mediterran and the newly-released Kelly Caleche. I am not a big fan of Lovely - but Parker's personal favorite scents are some of my own, and I also wear Covet on a regular basis... and now I will look forward to her next release, which I hope will have that 'dirty' feel she's been wanting to put out there from the beginning...