Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr

"The final irony is that the naturals-only people don't know what the word natural means."

A non-fiction work to be sure, however this is a story that will delight your olfactory senses, increase your appreciation for Sarah Jessica Parker and crave a green mango.
The author, the New York Times  scent critic, weaves together two disparate tales of this billion dollar industry, documenting the creation of a new Hermes fragrance in Paris and a new celebrity scent in New York.
I had read a somewhat negative review of the book before I started which did not dissuade me from picking up a copy. The critic lambasted Burr’s familiarity with SJP, which I think was an unwarranted critique. Burr clearly finds the subject of the perfume, ‘Lovely’ to possess similar attributes to the name of the perfume and her passion for the project is infectious. I remember when that particular fragrance was released… I wasn’t a fan, now I’m eager to unlock the secrets of Un Jardin Sur Le Nil  the book’s other fragrance.
The year spent capturing the perfect scent reflects the cultural divide between France and America and markedly different approach to the alchemy which is scent creation.
The business side and the scientific angles are well covered and make for fascinating reading. The injection of a little glamour in the form of the premier super luxe brand, Hermes, coupled with the stellar SJP add further buzz without taking over from the real stars – the parfumiers.
Google helpfully reminded me what had prompted me to seek this book out in the first place – a recommendation from ABC TV’s Book Club, mystery solved.
It would be remiss of me not to mention how fascinating the work of Jean Claude Ellena, head perfumer of Hermes is; a modern magician cooking up fantastical sensations in his lab that replicate lived experiences - distilling life into a bottle.

5 out of 5 good perfumes don’t stink.

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