Forage – Stop to smell the flowers… then eat them, too?

Forage for your food, lately, or too scared to pick your own? There’s a whole world of edible plants growing around us, but if the closest you’ve ever been to foraging for food is scrumping apples (or more recently, scrabbling at the red-stickered items in your supermarket’s Reduced section), you need this beautiful book…

Yes, it’s another book we’ve eagerly added to our Fragrant Reads shelves, but although the publishers of Forage: Wild Plants to Gather and Eat say ‘Anybody can enjoy the increasingly popular back-to-nature activity of foraging’, the truth is, very few of us feel confident enough to start picking some of the foliage we see on our daily walks. Thanks to author Liz Knight’s clear descriptions, and the stunning botanical illustrations of Rachel Pedder-Smith, the identification is made far easier and reading this, you’ll really feel encouraged to explore and diversify with wild ingredients.

What’s more, it’ll certainly make you look at flowers in a different way. From honeysuckle cordial (which sounds like something the fairies would drink in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), pickled cherry blossoms, linden leaf madeleines, dandelion petal cake to damson and rose petal preserves, the accompanying recipes sound like a feast for all the senses.

 

Forage: Wild Plants to Gather and Eat by Liz Knight, illustrated by Rachel Pedder-Smith [Laurence King Publishing]
Buy it at Waterstones

There’s such an elegant and understated confidence to Forage, and no wonder – Liz has a wealth of experience, having spent years learning the ways of foraging, founded Forage Fine Foods – a business she runs from her kitchen in rural Herefordshire – where she teaches courses on foraging and cooking wild ingredients, and also sells some delicious foodie finds. You may also have seen her appearing on the eight-part series of Channel 5’s Escape to the Farm with presenter Kate Humble. But if you’ve the idea that Liz was born in the bosom of the country and learned such skills at her mother’s knee, it certainly didn’t come naturally.

 

 

‘I grew up in normal street in a normal town just outside London,’ says Liz, and it turns out she gradually grew to love freshly picked food having tasted the tomatoes from a neighbour’s greenhouse, and later, worked in care homes and talked to the older residents. Explains Liz:

‘These people knew food; they taught me how to make butter, what cuts of meat to buy and how to cook it, what leaves to nibble on and what food should really taste like…Thanks to them I got a fire in my belly about the wild, wonderful food of Britain and that fire turned into Forage.’

Nowadays we’re becoming used to seeing ‘foraged food’ celebrated on menus of fine dining restaurants, but really Liz wants everyone to feel confident enough to try their hand at picking ingredients growing wild locally. Because Liz’s life now truly is spent searching the local hedgerows in search of scrumptious finds, and we’re sure reading this book will sew some more seeds of the passion for foraging. Now you won’t only want to stop to smell the roses (and wild cherry blossom, linden trees, honeysuckle, gorse…) but eat them (once safely identified!) too.

By Suzy Nightingale

Secrets of the Lavender Girls – real-life WWII stories of the women who worked at Yardley

In her novel, Secrets of the Lavender Girls (a book we recently added to our Fragrant Reads shelf of scent-themed tomes), Kate Thompson tells the tale of the women who worked at the Yardley factory during the war. But it turns out some of the stories she discovered suring her research were even more incredible…

‘I love archives and libraries,’ Kate Thompson shares on her Facebook page. ‘Carefully untying the cream ribbon of an old file and catching the scent of 80-year-old dust motes is a thrill. More than once I’ve found hours can slip away leafing through yellowed newspaper reports and witness accounts from the Second World War in the silence of a reading room…’

Revealing her passion for research, and the extraordinary stories she found during her time writing The Secrets of the Lavender Girls, Kate says that ‘nothing beats what historians calls ‘Primary Sources’ and what I prefer instead to call ‘Magnificent Women’.’

The utterly charming novel follows the fragrant history of Yardley, and the remarkable stories of the women who worked there. Though a fictional account, Kate’s genuine fondness for the real life women she found (and who shared their tales with her) truly shines through.

Unravelling the stories of the real-life women who worked at Yardley during the war, she received ‘a beautiful handwritten letter in the post.’

‘I was a wartime lavender girl, I read about your book in a magazine,’ wrote Joan Osborne. ‘Yardley was the most wonderful years of my life. I am now 91.’

The letter was from Joan, who’d desperately wanted to work at Yardley, telling Kate: ‘It must have been the glamour. I remember travelling from Stratford to Ilford on the bus and the conductor opening the window so everyone could smell the lavender blowing from Yardley. Carpenters Road, or Stink Bomb Alley was famous for its smells. Seven different types of air flowed down there depending on which way the air was blowing. I can still smell the lavender,’

 

Kate learned Joan was sent to work in the top floor perfumery department where she was given a broom to sweep the floor. ‘I thought, “I haven’t come here to sweep floors” so they moved me to bottle-filling where I was putting the skin and caps on bottles. They were losing so many girls to the services I don’t think they wanted to lose anymore, so they kept me sweet. I earnt eighteen shillings and something a week and my clocking in number was 157. I’ve still got the card.’

‘They were dangerous times, especially when the flying bombs started up, but being young I didn’t think that much about it. I was more upset by how cold it was in the factory, the heating was rarely on and we were always freezing. They used to give us cups of Oxo to warm us up. Least the room always smelt lovely from the lavender, freesia and April violets perfume.’

 

 

You can read more of the remarkable back-story of Joan and her fellow Yardley girls in Kate Thompson’s touching refelections on researching the book. But we cannot urge you enough to go and buy the book itself – and read it while wearing one of Yardley’s classic fragrances (still proudly in production!) for an extra fragrant waft of history…

By Suzy Nightingale

Sensehacking – professor Charles Spence reveals ‘How to Use the Power of Your Senses’

Sensehacking is the just-published book by professor Charles Spence, and the tantalising subtitle – ‘How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living’ – suggests we can all make use of these hidden super-powers…

We’re adding SO many great books to our Fragrant Reads section, lately (and might have to add more bookshelves soon!) and this latest is particularly exciting. ‘How can the furniture in your home affect your well-being? What colour clothing will help you play sport better? And what simple trick will calm you after a tense day at work?’ These are the questions posed (and answered) by Oxford professor Charles Spence – an expert on the senses who we’ve seen speak at IFRA Fragrance Forums over the years, and whose research has often sparked or informed many fragrant features of our own. As head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Spence focuses on how our senses often overlap – sometimes very confusingly – and this book aims to demonstrate how ‘…our senses change how we think and feel, and how by ‘hacking’ them we can reduce stress, become more productive and be happier.’

Exploring how our senses are constantly stimulated – in nature, while in the workplace, at home or while we play – Spence splices his cutting-edge scientific research with practical examples of how we can use this knowledge to our benefit. For example, now we’ve all been constrained due to the global pandemic, Spence drives home the point of how beneficial going out for a walk can be, for our mental health perhaps even more than physically. In the Garden chapter, he cites how even ‘Two thousand years ago, Taoists in the Far East were already advocating in print the health benefits of gardening and greenhouses.’ And recent studies have revealed those who regularly spend time in quiet contemplation on a woodland walk – a practice known in Japan as shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’ – ‘…exhibit lower stress levels as well as an enhanced immune response.’

 

Sensehacking forest bathing walking nature woodland smell photo by FreePik

 

There’s some fascinating sections on how we’re ‘led by the nose’, too. Ask most people about how they think large corporations try to entice us with smell and many will say something about supermarkets and the ‘fake’ but tempting waft of freshly baked bread. Spence reveals that no research is available on this subject – ‘It’s not that the research hasn’t been done, you understand, for it most certainly has. It is just that the supermarkets have chosen not to share their findings.’ But at least that baked bread smell is ‘unlikely to be artificial’ he explains, because ‘the delectable smell of freshly baked bread is one of the aromas that, at least until very recently, chemists struggled to imitate synthetically.’

From the tricks of ‘Subliminal seduction’ and ‘Multisensory shopping online’, the way are senses are appealed to and why we find certain things/people/experiences more appealing than others, to what the future holds for ways we can hack our senses; it’s certainly a thrilling read. And will provide you many ready answers to the inevitable questions we fragrance-lovers always get: ‘Why are you so obsessed with perfume? Doesn’t it just smell nice, and that’s it?’ Well, we’ve always known there’s far more to it than that, and now you can recommend this book for any olfactory nay-sayers you might meet…

 

Sensehacking: How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living by Charles Spence (Viking Books)
Buy it at WHSmith

 

By Suzy Nightingale

Floriography: arranging flowers for friends, lovers (and foes!)

We have an ever-growing bookshelf of Fragrant Reads, and just added another lovely one to the collection. Far from just a pretty book about flowers, it’s a whole coded history with which to send secret messages…

Floriography by Jessica Roux, published by Simon & Schuster

We first heard tell of this book when listening to the always brilliant Dressed: A History of Fashion podcast, when they interviewed the author, teasing us with the information that it should be ‘Daffodils for your unrequited love, lavender for your sworn enemy…’

Exploring the secret, coded significance of various blooms through history, Jessica Roux presents a beautifully illustrated book of fragrant posy suggestions – from flowers to proffer a specific message to a prospective lover, to those one should an enemy… perhaps with a copy of this book, if you want to make sure your message gets through loud and clear?

 

Image by Jessica Roux

 

Described as a ‘full-color guide to the historical uses and secret meanings behind an impressive array of flowers and herbs,’ there is such delight to be found its pages, and one cannot but help construct imaginary floral messages to foes or scandalously salacious love letters ‘written’ in this fascinating historical code! Something we particularly loved were the suggestions of what other flowers to pair, to add further layers of significance to a bouquet, rather than only describing each flower in isolation.

The language of flowers is centuries long, floral mythology and cultural significance reaching back as far as history itself; but it really hit its peak with the always nostalgic and whimsical Victorians in the 19th century, particularly in England and within the United States. In these times, the importance of etiquette could not be understated – and sending the incorrect bouquet might have resulted in faces as red as the roses you’d innocently gifted. We have to remember that really, such strict social guidelines were enforced to reign in any unwanted displays of open emotion (unthinkable!) and so such coded ways of communicating were commonplace. And yet, where strictness prevails, so too do romantic fancies entangle every possible method of expressing oneself…

 

Image from Floriography by Jessica Roux

 

The Victorians were notoriously harsh in their ‘rules’ about what types of fragrance (particularly women) should use, where they should apply it, how much and how often. You can read more about this – and other eras’ perfumed proclivities – in our dedicated section on Perfume History; but for full-on floral charm, the scented snippets researched and illustrated by talented artist Jessica Roux, makes this a wonderful book for any flower-lover – and you’ll surely be dropping the floral facts you’ve gleaned from it into conversations for years to come.

The publishers suggest this is a perfect gift, and we certainly agree, at any time of year – but how much more interesting that gift would be if accompanied by a meaningfully put-together floral arrangement, don’t you think? A thank you for friend who’s helped get you through this year, perhaps, or a thrillingly stylish way to communicate your displeasure? Rather depends on how nice the more challenging of relatives are to us during these trying times, doesn’t it…?

It’s selling super fast but at time of writing, it’s still available to buy from Book Depository here.

By Suzy Nightingale

Santa’s FREE gift… get your Secret Scent-er

By golly gosh it’s been a tough year, to put it mildl; so as a special present, Santa has a FREE gift for you all

This year, because we’d like to say a massive ‘THANK YOU!’ for your continued support – and as testament to just how important the role of fragrance has been, calming our nerves and bolstering our spirits in troubling times – Santa has decided to gift the Christmas edition of The Scented Letter magazine, FREE for you all to read.

One of the most hotly-anticipated issues each year is our bumper Christmas edition of the magazine – this year entitled Secret Scent-er – which incorporates all the usual news, reviews and in-depth features with the addition of a fabulously fragrant gift guide. Seriously drool-worthy, it’s a showcase for the very best scented gorgeousness that money can buy, from niche and indie brands to designer luxe.

We know that Christmas will be very different for many of you this year, and hope that you can find time to sit awhile, put your feet up and have your spirits lifted by all manner of glorious things arrayed in the 64 pages – normally only available to VIP Members and those who purchase the printed editions (scroll down for more info on how to get these).

Meanwhile, here are some of the perfumed highlights you can peruse in your FREE copy of The Scented Letter magazine

• In Extraits, Extraits, Read All About It!Persolaise explores the revival of perfume’s most precious form

 

• Can’t be with those you love over the holidays? Conjure them up with a spritz or a dab of scent, we suggest in Spraying Home for Christmas

 

• Like our favourite Christmas tunes, explains Viola Levy in Jingle Smells, certain fragrances never fail to deliver Christmas cheer

• I hopped on a Zoom with Santa for this issue’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections– smile as he shares centuries of fragrant recollections

 

• And of course, we’ve sniffed out the best presents, from glamorous gift sets to beautiful (scented) baubles in Your Fragrant Gift Guide 2020

• Plus as usual, we bring you all the Latest Launches, news, events – and so much more

If the free edition has tickled your fragrant fancies for more award-winning journalism, we can now take orders for a limited run of printed copies of all editions of our magazine, priced £12.50 to our VIP Subscribers (£15 to non-VIPs). And remember: you can buy an annual print subscription to The Scented Letter and also an International Online Subscription for the magazine, too!

Finally, no matter where you are, please know you’re not alone, and that the days will be lighter from now on. With much love, we’d like to wish you all a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS, and look forward to a far more peaceful (and perfume-filled) New Year, for all…

By Suzy Nightingale

Take your seat for the IFRA Fragrance Forum… MIND BLOWING lectures & a new book

The IFRA Fragrance Forum has been a source of awe-inspring intellectual discussion of, and future predictions for, our sense of smell – utterly fascinating lectures given by the world’s top scientists, perfumers and researchers in in the field of scent. Normally, you need to buy a ticket to attend, but this year (as with many events) it was held (albeit in a slightly truncated form) online.

You can watch the lectures here, for FREE – and get ready to have your mind BLOWN, as such scent luminaries as perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, Professors Barry Smith and Charles Spence and Claire Guest, CEO of Medical Detection Dogs talked about the new work they are doing with dogs sniffing out Covid-19.

IFRA – the International Fragrance Association – was set up in 1973, dedicated to showcasing perfumery and (crucially) agreeing on a set of international guidelines so that we are safe to wear scent all over over the world.

But IFRA does much more than advise on safety requirements. For several years, now, they have been hosting an annual Fragrance Forum, gathering a diverse range of speakers to focus ‘…on developments in olfaction in the widest possible way.’ Events we have widely reported on, and been so inspired by.

This year, the Forum incorportated IFRA’s book launch, which collates ‘The results of these fascinating talks from around fifty speakers’, and which have been have ‘now been brought together for the first time in a new book Olfaction: A Journey’’
IFRA told us that, ‘The book offers a reflective celebration of the Fragrance Forum and allows readers to dip into the ideas presented by past speakers, organised by theme and offering a fascinating journey through ten years of olfactory research.
The themes covered include psychology, health & well-being, design & creativity, arts & culture, technology & innovation and business insight. From the ability of someone to detect the smell of Parkinson’s disease to the possibilities of creating an artificial ‘nose’ through machine learning, IFRA UK has brought together thought leaders and key researchers spanning a breadth of different fields to share their ideas and findings.’
Lisa Hipgrave, Director of IFRA UK said: ‘This isn’t an inward look at the fragrance industry, in fact it is the very opposite. Over the last decade we have brought together such a powerful range of speakers on such wide-ranging topics we realised we were sitting on a really wonderful collection of stories. We were really keen to share these to shine a light on the work of the amazing speakers we have had over the years, from all walks of life.
‘Where else could you find out about historical perspectives, from the ancient Egyptians to new advances by Google Brain using machine learning? And personal stories about someone who could smell Parkinson’s disease to what the impact of living without the sense of smell really means? We hope that people will be as fascinated as we have been over the years by the impact that our sense of smell has in so many different facets of our lives.’
Editor of the book, Lizzie Ostrom, elucidated her involment in the project, explaining that: ‘It is evident from the collected stories in this book that our sense of smell impacts every area of our lives, from our health to our relationships. It’s a testament to the fragrance forum that concepts seeming esoteric ten years ago – like detecting disease through our noses – are now much more in the public consciousness. We’re excited to bring this leading research to readers in an accessible and compelling format.’

Included in the book are explanations of some of the most jaw-dropping moments we’ve experienced hearing the lectures first-hand….

Sniffing out Parkinson’s
Do people with Parkinson’s smell different? A pioneering team showcased their respective expertise to show how our sense of smell could enable early detection and treatment.
Living without smell
As many as 3-5% of the population have anosmia (no sense of smell), and up to one in five of us will experience some form of smell loss. What are the future prospects for treatment?
How to make a mosquito invisibility cloak
Mosquito-borne diseases affect more than half the world’s population. More than 2.5 billion people are at risk of contracting dengue fever, and there are at least 400,000 deaths each year from malaria. Understanding body odour might help tackle this threat.
The role of smell in consciousness
Is olfaction largely conscious and we just do not notice, or does it occur largely in the unconscious, modifying mood, helping us to recognise kin or choose a mate without us being aware it is happening?
Spices, balsams and the incense of temples
What was the prominence of fragrance in the elite culture of ancient Egypt? How could this most ephemeral of histories be captured to give modern audiences a glimpse of the ancient experience of scent?
Our evolutionary pharmacy
As a sensory function, olfaction probably predates all others, primarily helping us to identify food, danger, predators and prospective mates. 
‘Olfaction: A journey’ is available to purchase at for £29.95 plus postage by visiting: ifrauk.bigcartel.co
By Suzy Nightingale

The Secret Ways of Perfume by Cristina Caboni

The Secret Ways of Perfume by Cristina Caboni is the scent-themed book we’re snuggled up with right now – why not make yourself a brew and get cosy while you read our review…?

 

The Secret Ways of Perfume by Cristina Caboni

****

Any novel that contains the phrase ‘perfume is the truth’ has us whooping for joy, and in her beautiful novel, Caboni reminds us that scent has the greatest power to ignite our memories – something the main character, Elena Rossini, knows only too well.

Granted a rare gift of a superior sense of smell, Elena’s passion for perfume has been passed down through generations of her family; but it’s a power that can all too often overwhelm her, as this ability means painful memories about her mother are carried on the breeze, and so she can never truly escape her past. When a betrayal destroys her dreams, fragrant events are set in motion when Elena’s best friend invites her to Paris, and she grabs at the chance to start afresh.

Lured by the promise of  immersing herself in the world of scent once again, the ancient art of composing perfume beckons our protagonist. Searching for a secret recipe within her family’s historic archives, Elena’s new goal becomes the replication of a composition noone in her family managed to master. Having met a man who’s harbouring his own clandestine past; before long, she’s following the scent trail toall manner of mysterious discoveries. Because, as she was told all those years ago:

Remember Elena, perfume is the truth. The only thing that really counts. Perfume never lies, perfume is what we are, it’s our true essence…’

From the landscape of Florence to the sun-drenched lavender fields, this a book to delight all perfume-lovers – a novel that you’ll dive in to, nose first.

Buy it from Penguin U.K. (BLack Swan imprint, 2016)

In the mood for some more perfume-related books? We have a whole scented bookshelf of Fragrant Reads – from non-fiction historical explorations to contemporary criticism, with a plethora of perfume-related reading you can get your nose stuck in, right now!

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrant reads we recommend: Nose Dive by Catherine Haley Epstein

This week we’re diving in nose-first to Catherine Haley Epstein‘s Nose Dive – a brilliant book for adventurous noses. We have a whole scented bookshelf of Fragrant Reads we recommend, so do please feel free to browse at your leisure, from literary to scientific and everything in-between.

Meanwhile, let’s get up close and personal with our sense of smell, and re-connect our sense of wonder as we read…

On the back of the book, author, artist and scent-maker, Catherine Haley Epstein, introduces her book in a way that intrigued and delighted us immediately. Describing it as a handbook for taking ‘…Adventures for your nose in art, anthropology, and science, the book Nose Dive is a broad introduction to olfactory culture meant for artists or anyone curious about the power of scent.’ Well that’s pretty much a checklist of our intersts, so we were eager to learn more, and Epstein contnues: ‘Something is in the air with respect to our most powerful and least regarded sense. This book demystifies the world of scent, provides springboards for further study, and presents exercises for shifting gears with your nose. A must-read for anyone intrigued by the superpower right under our noses.’ Consider us sold!

Epstein was lovely enough to send us a first-edition copy of her book with a letter, saying further that she wrote it because she wanted ‘…to invite dialogue from the different aspects of the scent arena.’ And also explaining the cover of the book is ‘Tiffany blue… not for the reason you might think – it’s actually the colour of my favourite smell, a pool toy.’

You know what they say about finding kindred spirits? We think she’s definitely one of us

Reading Nose Dive is an absolute must for anyone of us who’s wanted to dive deeper than merely smelling nice by spraying something beautiful, deeper still than having a particular memory connected to smell – Epstein manages to express both a childish glee at this super-power right under (and in) our noses, while explaining some complex theories and inviting the reader to explore. There are short, easily digestible chapters on Art, the science of smelling, things to consider when making a perfume and on extolling the utter joy that our sense of smell can bring. On that first thorny issue of art, and in answer to the on-going debate as to whether perfume ‘deserves’ to be classed as such, Epstein puts it perfectly by saying, simply, that ‘Art is translation. Art is a human-specific activity for translating our experiences, using whatever mediums we can.’

Along with theoretical discussions, pondering on her own years of research and development, Epstein also offers some practical exercises for those interested in making their own fragrances, or things to think about, study and and enjoy in your own time. Half the joy of Nose Dive, in fact, is that it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or place itself on a pedestal to preach about perfume to the already converted. Neither does it simply re-hash historical references and methods of making fragrance or only focus on new, exciting niche houses. This is a well-considered work that manages to pack in some powerful topics and truly thoughtful themes into such a slim volume, you can practically feel the waves of excitement about perfume and smell pulsating from every page. Not only to read and enjoy for yourself, we suggest this is one to press into the hands of everyone who’s ever asked you why you’re so obsessed with scent… Spread the love!

Nose Dive by Catherine Haley Epstein, $25 catherinehaleyepstein.com

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrant Reads we recommend – The Scent Trail: A Journey of the Senses by Celia Lyttleton

Frosty winter days call for snuggling up with a good book, and we have a whole scented bookshelf of Fragrant Reads we recommend. Today we are plunging our noses into the beautifully written and so-evocative book that follows one woman’s journey to discover the secret of scent…

Penguin say: ‘When Celia Lyttelton visited a bespoke perfumers, she realised a long-held ambition: to have a scent created solely for her. Entering this heady, exotic world of oils and essences, she was transported from a leafy London square to a place of long-forgotten memories and sensory experiences. And once drawn into this world, she felt compelled to trace the origins, history and culture of the many ingredients that made up her unique perfume…

And so began a magical journey of the senses that took Celia from Grasse, the cradle of perfume, to Morocco; from the rose-growing region of Isparta in Turkey, to the Tuscan hills where the iris grows wild. And after journeying to Sri Lanka, the home of the heavenly scented jasmine, Celia ventured to India, the Yemen and finally to the ‘Island of Bliss’, Socotra. Here she traced the rarest and most mysterious agent in perfumery, ambergris, which is found in the bellies of whales and is said to have powerful aphrodisiac qualities.

From the peasants and farmers growing their own crops, and the traders who sell to the great perfume houses, to the ‘noses’ who create the scents and the marketing kings who rule this powerful billion-dollar industry, Celia Lyttelton paints a mystical, sensual landscape of sights, sounds and aromas as she recalls the extraordinary people and places she encountered on her unique Scent Trail.’

We say: While on the quest for ‘the perfect perfume’, author Celia Lyttelton had a bespoke fragrance made by Anastasia Brozler in London, an encounter that set Lyttelton off on a tour of the world to trace the history and provenence of the ingredients used. From a collection of precious oils contained in an old wooden box to the growing, harvesting and distilling of the materials and exploring cultural responses and mythological beliefs surroung scent, this book is a must-have for anyone who wonders where, exactly their perfume originated. And what a tour to take! With new scent adventures beginning with sentences such as: ‘We arrived on a plateau of dragons’ blood trees and desert roses…’ you will doubtless be Googling far flung fragrant climes, just as we did, while reading this (and now knowing exactly what you’d do following a Lottery win!) Beautifully written, and full of the insightful, utterly fascinating pieces of fragrant history that she collected along the way, this book is a deep-dive into perfume ingredients that will have you packing your travelling bags and setting off into the scented sunset… Save a seat for us!

Celia Lyttelton The Scent Trail: A Journey of the Senses, Bantam Books amazon.co.uk

*****

Looking for a gift or just the next thing you need to get your nose in to? Have a browse of our ever-expanding selection of favourite books – some are exclusively about perfume, others are more scholarly tomes on the history and scientific advancements of smell and the senses; while others still follow a path of examining fragrant ingredients in poetic, funny or awe-inspiring ways. What are you waiting for…?

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrant Reads: Scent and Subversion

Did you know we have an ever-expanding bookshelf of Fragrant Reads here at The Perfume Society? Combining two of our favourite things (perfume and books), we’re always on the lookout for great reads to recommend you – from just-published new novels and scholarly scent explorations through to more historically inclined tomes – all with a central scented theme.

We know we’re not alone in getting ever more geeky about fragrance – our feedback from you overwhelmingly shows we’re seeking more information about the fragrances we wear – and the people who make them. Throw in some scientific facts or fascinating glimpses behind-the-scenes of ingredients, or take us by the hand to explore the faces and inspirations behind some of our favourites and we’re happy as pigs in… er, petals!

Today we’re sticking our noses into a book that lovingly recounts scents once regarded as ‘forbidden’ or even dangerous, and the incredibly glamorous people who flouted such milksop opinions and wore them anyway. We rather think you’ll fall in love with this one, just as we did…

 

Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Subversive Perfume, by Barbara Herman

Far more than merely a way to smell pleasant, those of us obsessed by fragrance know well that perfume has historically been seen as subversive – and still can be used to break the rules and unsettle cultural conventions. Highlighting the use of perfume to play with society’s gender conventions, Barbara Herman analyses vintage perfumes and perfume advertising – a theme that she began on her popular blog, Yesterday’s Perfume.

Lavishly illustrated, and lovingly detailed descriptions of vintage fragrances through the ages – and the femme fatales and mysterious stars associated with wearing them; Herman includes essays on scent appreciation, a glossary of important perfume terms and ingredients, and tips on how to begin your own foray into vintage and classic perfume – such a great way to navigate this sometimes intimidating world, and to find a new love from a back catalogue you may have missed.

I love how Herman injects wit into her descriptions, such as this from her review of Le Galion Sortilége: ‘Boozy, lush, animalic, but lady-like, this is one of those perfumes that, to an untrained nose, might be described as ‘smelling like my grandma.’ Well, maybe if your grandma was Colette or Marlene Dietrich…’ The volume is written with a mixture of humour, historical fact and useful advice, and this is a book that any perfume lover would be delighted to read.

Publisher: The Lyons Press

At amazon.co.uk

*****

Barbara’s blog is well worth re-visiting, but you may notice the last entry was updated in 2016. This is because she had a rather exciting project up here sleeve…

Barbara Herman: ‘I launched a perfume brand — Eris Parfums. Named after the Greek goddess Eris, daughter of Nyx (Night), and one of the bad girls of Mt. Olympus with a reputation as a troublemaker and subversive, Eris has thrown down her gauntlet (or thrown her Golden Apple?) in the form of three new perfumes. I think you’ll like their inspiration: vintage floral animalics.

Belle de Jour, Night Flower, and Ma Bête were each composed by perfumer Antoine Lie (Tom Ford, Givenchy, Comme des Garçons, Etat Libre d’Orange, et al) and each are a take on vintage perfume styles but with a modern twist. I really love them and I hope you do, too!’ And there’s now a fourth fragrance in the collection – Mx.

Having had the pleasure of sampling each of the fragrances, I can confirm that those of with a penchant for vintage will get a real kick out of these. My favourite has to be Ma Bête – ‘(My Beast) caresses you with the suggestiveness of perfumed fur. A collision of the floral and the animal, MA BÊTE combines a regal Tunisian Neroli with spices and a 50 percent overdose of Antoine Lie’s own animalic cocktail.’

‘Ma Bête is a fierce beast with raunchy elegance.’ – Antoine Lie

Whether reading about delightfully subversive scents or wanting to douse yourself in their forbidden essence, this season is an excellent time to slip into your most fabulous gown and exude dangerous glamour, don’t you think?

By Suzy Nightingale