Perfume: A Century of Scents by Lizzie Ostrom ~ book review

Perfume: A Century of Scents by Lizzie Ostrom

Halfway through Lizzie Ostrom’s Perfume: A Century of Scents, I set down the book and wondered who it was written for. Not the perfumista. Ostrom’s essays on the book’s 100 featured fragrances often leave out key lore or information on a perfume’s place in the pantheon, its history, or sometimes even how the perfume smells. Then it occurred to me: the book isn’t about perfume, it’s a telling of social history through perfume.

Perfume: A Century of Scents presents ten fragrances for each of the twentieth century’s decades and an essay introducing each decade. Each fragrance gets a Thurber-style illustration and a snappy nickname. The book starts with Houbigant Parfum Idéal in 1900 (“the Queen-Bee Perfume”) and ends with 1996’s Demeter Dirt (“the Un-Perfume”).

When I say that the book isn’t really about perfume, I mean that, for instance, in Ostrom’s essay on Diorissimo you won’t find the story of Roudnitska’s study of his patch of lilies of the valley, or even much of a description of how the fragrance smells. Instead, once you’ve waded through a page of how tough it is for men to buy perfume for their wives, you get a comparison of Diorissimo to Grace Kelly and Dior fashion’s “modest, appealingly feminine lines.” It’s a comment on the times…

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(More) new & upcoming perfume books for 2016

A few more new and upcoming perfume books for 2016: Chanel, The Art of Creating Fragrance: Flowers of the French Riviera by Lionel Paillès; Sacred Scents in Early Christianity and Islam by Mary Thurlkill; and The Secret Ways of Perfume by Cristina Caboni.

Also new: a paperback version of Jean-Claude Ellena’s The Alchemy of Scent (due in October) and an audiobook of Aphrodesia by John Oehler (available through Amazon or Audible).

The Art of Creating Fragrance: Flowers of the French Riviera

chanel The Art of Creating Fragrance: Flowers of the French Riviera

From Chanel comes The Art of Creating Fragrance: Flowers of the French Riviera (French title Dans les champs de Chanel, à Pégomas, en pays de Grasse), a six volume box set with text by Lionel Paillès and photographs by Pierre Even…

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Fragrances of the World 2016 by Michael Edwards ~ new perfume book


Michael Edwards will publish the latest version of his “fragrance bible”, Fragrances of the World 2016. The 2016 edition lists fragrances grouped by fragrance family, and includes over 2,000 new releases from 2015. The book is used by numerous retailers to help customers find fragrances they might like based on the scent(s) they already know and enjoy…

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Folio Columns: 2003-2014 by Luca Turin ~ book review

Folio Columns: 2003-2014 by Luca Turin

If I were Luca Turin (forget for a moment that this is a review of his book), I might start this article with a story seemingly unrelated to Folio Columns: 2003-2014. For example, maybe I’d tell you about standing at a confiserie window as a child, pondering the tiny green leaves or dot of red or praline flower adorning each bonbon and guessing at its relationship to the candy’s hidden center. Once you’d finished the article — which has nothing to do with chocolate, by the way — you’d understand that I’d delivered a curious, but apt, way to explore something entirely different.

Fans of Turin’s writing already know this roundabout way of addressing a subject. (They also know to expect a smattering of evocative metaphors as well as frequent references to classical music, scientific theory, and rare automobiles, no matter what the essay’s subject is.) If you enjoy Turin’s perfume reviews in his and Tania Sanchez’s Perfumes: the A-Z Guide for their style at least as much as their insight on fragrance, you’ll definitely want a copy of Folio Columns

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