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Perfumes: The A-Z Guide Paperback – International Edition, October 27, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 204 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The first book of its kind: a definitive guide to the world of perfume

Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez are experts in the world of scent. Turin, a renowned scientist, and Sanchez, a longtime perfume critic, have spent years sniffing the world's most elegant and beautiful--as well as some truly terrible--perfumes. In Perfumes: The Guide, they combine their talents and experience to review more than twelve hundred fragrances, separating the divine from the good from the monumentally awful. Through witty, irreverent, and illuminating prose, the reviews in Perfumes not only provide consumers with an essential guide to shopping for fragrance, but also make for a unique reading experience.

Perfumes features introductions to women's and men's fragrances and an informative "frequently asked questions" section including:
• What is the difference between eau de toilette and perfume?
• How long can I keep perfume before it goes bad?
• What's better: splash bottles or spray atomizers?
• What are perfumes made of?
• Should I change my fragrance each season?

Perfumes: The Guide is an authoritative, one-of-a-kind book that will do for fragrance what Robert Parker's books have done for wine. Beautifully designed and elegantly illustrated, this book will be the perfect gift for collectors and anyone who's ever had an interest in the fascinating subject of perfume.

Picking a Perfect Perfume

For Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez tested nearly 1,500 fragrances--some glorious, some foul. Here they offer some humble advice on finding something worth loving among the stinkers.

1. Smell top to bottom
Perfumes usually unfold in three (often very different) stages: the sparkling first few minutes are the fragrance's top note, followed by its true personality, known as the heart note, and ending with the base note, aka the drydown, hours later. Something you love at the counter you may loathe by the parking lot. We recommend top-to-bottom tests on skin and on paper, since some scents that disappoint on the heat of skin may shine on your shirtsleeve.

2. Write it down
Bring a pen to write names on paper test strips, so you're not in anguish hours later, trying to recall which is the third scent from the left that transports you to Shangri-La. Keep a cheap, possibly extremely trashy paperback on hand, so you can store strips between pages to keep them separate.

3. Rest your nose
Noses tune out, which is why you can smell your friends' homes but not your own. Smell no more than five scents per day on paper strips and try on only the best one or two, to keep your nose reliable.

4. Check the radiance
To get a good sense of how the perfume will smell to other people as you walk past, try spraying a test strip and leaving it in the room while you step out for a bit. Come back fifteen minutes later and breathe in: that's the radiance.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Less a guide in the sense of helping people choose the perfect fragrance than a wide-ranging, critical review of some 1,200 perfumes, both famous and obscure, this comprehensive book is unfailingly entertaining. A collaboration between Turin, a well-known olfactory scientist, and Sanchez, a perfume collector and critic, the book brings their exquisite connoisseurship to life in a contagious manner. Their passion for a few scents and their outrage at the others' failings make for entry after entry of hilarious, catty comments interspersed with occasional erudite, eloquent disquisitions. French perfumery Guerlain is subject to both: Jicky is an object lesson in perfumery... a towering masterpiece, while Aqua Allegoria Pivoine Magnifica is like chewing tin foil while staring at a welding arc. Other startlingly evocative metaphors abound, especially those comparing perfumes to people, whether someone real (Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton) or a general type (socialites, someone ill with bronchitis). This will be a must-have for anyone who already loves perfumes, though many of the reviews will cause violent disagreement, and those who aren't utterly perfume-obsessed will still appreciate the opening essays on olfactory science, the history of perfume, general types of fragrances and how to choose perfumes. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780143115014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143115014
  • ASIN: 0143115014
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Turin argues in his earlier book, _The Secret of Scent_, that smell is not so much about memory and biology, as is widely believed, as it is about beauty and imagination. He believes, furthermore, that one of the highest achievements in perfumery is what he terms "abstraction," that is to say, the creation of olfactory accords that, while perhaps alluding to natural smells, are novel and resistant to definition. These aesthetic axioms (which he presumably shares with co-author/wife Tania Sanchez) are the basis of the evaluations in this book, and we, as readers, have no choice but to take them or leave them. These axioms lead the authors to prefer complex fragrances over simple ones, fragrances that develop over time to linear ones, original and/or unique fragrances over skillful executions of old ideas, "interesting" (even if vaguely unpleasant) fragrances over boring (even if pleasant) ones, etc. In a nutshell, they apply the same standards to perfume that other critics usually apply to other arts. They want perfumery to be taken seriously as an art form, and say as much.

This is a legitimate view, and one to which I am highly sympathetic. That said, I think the authors overlook (or deliberately ignore) some of the factors that render the purely aesthetic appreciation of perfume difficult at best. First of all, perfumes are made to be worn. The final aesthetic effect of a fragrance is inseparable from the time, place, and person(s) involved. Of course this "framing" or contextualization effect is at work in all art forms, but it is arguably more important for perfumery than for others. Given the fact that perfumes are mixtures of chemicals, factors such as temperature, humidity, skin pH, decomposition, underlying body odor, age-related hyposmia, differing olfactory thresholds, etc.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The only way to get the newer, updated edition of this book is to buy the paperbook edition.

The Kindle edition is actually taken from the older, outdated hardback edition; which is to say it does not contain the numerous updates, new reviews(~450) and new Top 10 lists.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this on a whim and am *very* glad I did. This book is both extraordinarily educational and deliciously funny. Along with some nice, straightforward teachings by obvious experts, the book is filled with hugely entertaining mini-reviews of fragrances. The classics are hailed but dissected for the benefit of the class. The mediocre are called on the carpet and judged for both their virtues and their sins. And the trivial and forgettable are dispatched with short but laser-like descriptions of their one failed mission. Prepare to see your guilty pleasures nailed to the cross, and your true loves frisked rudely for shoplifted items. But trust me - it's not like a single Joan Rivers gag photocopied over and over - there's tremendous variety in the reviews. Many recommend superior but lesser-known fragrances that "did it better" - extremely useful to newbies. A lot of history is woven into the reviews - right where you need it. In fact, the education factor is at least two stars of my review. There's even a too-short glossary for people who might be put off by "aldehyde", "fougère", or "woody-amber". I would have loved to have seen more.

I enjoyed the fact that fragrance classifications were toyed with - and with extreme precision. For every "woody citrus" there's something like "evil tuberose" or "sad shampoo". But the authors don't spare themselves from the microscope, either - and hilariously so. [Spoiler: Tania admits to falling in love with one of my wife's favorites while drunk in the store, only to regret her romantic mistake upon sobering up.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got an e-mail from Amazon (not that it's personal) to write a review of this book. After looking over the others, I don't really see what I can add, but here's my four cents:

1. It's a bit sad to me that folks are so insecure. So what if Turin and Sachez have a different opinion than you? I have heard people say they were devastated that The Guide doesn't say "their scent" is great. It doesn't say some of my favorites are either, and I could care less.

2. Why is everyone saying it's bitchy? Yes, it's scathing, but it's not bitchy. There's a world of difference. Turin and Sanchez love scent and this comes through. They are having fun, I would imagine. And what do we do when we're having fun? Make jokes. Overstate. No, it's not bitchy, for it's never mean just for the sake of it.

3. These folks are professionals in their field. Dr. Turin designs new scent molecules. It is no wonder that they both go for the unusual and even the unwearable. The vast majority of the mid-scale department store scents smell the same: how would you like it if you had to test these on a regular basis? I'm sure your taste, too, would become more refined and gravitate to more bang than, say, yet another quiet white floral.

4. Folks, have some faith in your own opinions and just enjoy. The bottom line is this: this book is a great deal of fun. If you're looking for a list of ingrediants, google it.
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