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!
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!
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.
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?
Most of the U.K. seems to have spent the last few days with a deluge of rain, and while we cannot help but mourn the last days of summer, for many of us, that smell of rain is actually a reason to rejoice…
‘Petrichor’ is the technical name for that unmistakable (though so-difficult to describe) scent of imminent rain in the air, or the damp earth following a fresh downpour. The chemical reaction of plants, bacteria and soil all combine to create that experience that follows a thunderstorm, a phenomena first discovered by two Austrialian researchers in the 1960s, and published in a scientific paper called Nature of Argillaceous Odour.
One of the books on our scented shelf is The Smell of Fresh Rain, by Barney Shaw. Going in search of the meanings of smells (and how they help shape our lives), author Barney Shaw went on a journey of exploration for this book celebrating ‘The unexpected pleasures of our most elusive sense.’
From describing petrichor to researching the scent of fresh paint, frying bacon and pondering the question of what three o’clock in the morning smells like, it’s a fascinating ride to be part of. And part of it you most definitely are, as merely reading this book expands your mind to the possibilities and scents you take forgranted every single day. We especially loved the observation that ‘Unlike sight, smell does not travel in straight lines, so it is valuable in environments when sight does not serve well…’
Indeed, as Helen Keller once said, smell truly is ‘the fallen angel of the senses.’ We may not use it to seek out a sabre-toothed tiger or find food anymore, but the ability is there, or emotional reactions are built-in, unbidden.
An excellent book for anyone interested in exploring their senses further (for flavour is so interconnected to smell, as we know, and addressed within the book); those who write about perfume or smell in any respect will be especially pleased by the chapter On the Tip of My Nose, which looks at the language of smell, and what we can do to improve our communication skills. Completely fascinating from start to fragrant finish!
Perfume & Culture is the theme of the just-published edition of The Perfume Society‘s The Scented Letter magazine, in which we explore the many exciting ways fragrance is crossing over into the arts – infusing theatre, literature, ballet and art installations with its sensory magic – and at the growing trend for artists to launch perfume ranges of their own.
In this issue you can expect to find…
• For Lights, Camera, Aldehydes!, award-winning blogger and author Persolaise was inspired by his twin passions for film and fragrance
• The Scent of a Novel is the article which won Julia Berick the ‘Rising Star’ Jasmine Award – and now you can read it in full
• Suzy Nightingale lifts the velvet curtain on the actors and film directors who use fragrance as a tool to create a mood or get into a role in Perfuming A Part
• Bottle design is an art in itself – so we report on the exquisite fragrance flacons which broke all records in The Perfume Bottles Auction 2019
• Novelist Jane Thynne – who weaves perfume into her bestsellers – shares her olfactory life in Memories, Dreams, Reflections
And of course, as usual, we bring you all the Latest Launches, news, events – and so much more!
Our 60-page multi Jasmine Award-winning magazine is your very best way to keep up to date with all that’s happening in the scented world. Described as an essential read by industry insiders and perfume-lovers alike, the 60-page magazine is available FREE for our VIP Club Members online (sign in to view) or to purchase the coffee-table worthy glossy print version, you can order your copies here for £15 (£12.50 for VIPs)
‘Sexy gingers wanted!’ Redheads all around the world, we are looking for you! Mediamatic is looking for sexy gingers who let us extract their scent during Playhouse: Sex S(m)ells! Inspired by Patrick Süsskind’s ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’ we will recreate the perfume from the book. Interested and not afraid of people inhaling your smell? E-mail to: [email protected]‘
Well now. In the novel (and resulting film adaptation) of Perfume, the protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, is born with an extraordinary sense of smell. Those of you who have read the book or seen the film will be aware that his methods of capturing people’s scents are rather, um, murder-y, as the title may suggest. Lest potential volunteers are put off by this, the Institute for Art and Olfaction add a helpful footnote:
‘The redheads don’t actually need to be sexy, but exhibitionism is a must. We’re going to attempt Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s experiments, minus the murder!’
So that’s reassuring!
Earlier this year, the Art and Olfaction team arrived in London for their annual Award ceremony, celebrating independent and artisanal perfumers and artists who work with the sense of smell. Prior to the awards, there were many workshops, talks and performances taking place in Los Angeles, where the IAO are based, culminating in an Experimental Scent Summit in London, which we were delighted to take part in. The next award ceremony (2019) will be in Amsterdam, and ahead of this the IAO team will be taking up residence for the next month. As they explain…
‘Mediamatic and the institute for Art and Olfaction Team up for a summer program exploring innovative topics around olfaction. Over the course of a month, the IAO Los Angeles team will be in residence at Mediamatic in the first part of an ongoing research and programme on open scent culture and olfactory art.
Join us in our Aroma Lab for perfume blending workshops, follow our live on-site podcast production, learn about sex smells and join our aromatic game show, or a range of other activities presented by the IAO’s Los Angeles-based team.’
We can’t wait to see what they produce. Would you be brave enough to volunteer to have your scent ‘extracted’? We’re thinking it would certainly make for a unique ‘What I Did On My Summer Holiday’ diary entry, if nothing else!
Make room on your shelves immediately – not for more bottles of fragrance, this time, but books about them. There’s a perfumed plethora of fragrant reads out there that we’ll be reviewing in the coming months, showing the ever increasing lust for more, more, more fragrance facts and behind the scenes peeps in to the perfume world.
Here are just a few of the favourites we’ve read already, but fear not – there are many more fragrant reads to stack up on your bedside table, and we shall attempt to cover as many as we can possibly get our noses stuck in to…
‘I experience the world through smell – I always have.’ So begins the latest novel by Maggie Alderson, and we couldn’t agree more. Central character, Polly, is a perfume blogger who loses herself in the world of fragrance while her own world falls to pieces around her – something many of us can empathise with. We love the fact Maggie was inspired to name her after falling madly for Vilhelm’s perfume, Dear Polly, and that she even created a blog and Instagram account for Polly to share her perfume reviews.
Having grown up surrounded by the beautiful perfume bottles of her ultra glam (ex-model) mother, and learning to explore the world by sniffing ‘…everything!’ Polly now distracts herself with, among other things, ‘Guy, the mysterious, infuriating and hugely talented perfumer.’ We’re rather wondering who this may have been based on, as that description doesn’t sufficiently narrow it down…
Currently the book has been launched in Australia, but having been utterly gripped by the first chapter – which you can read for free, here – we’re crossing everything that the book will be published in the UK and other territories, soon.
A breathtakingly beautiful – and lavishly presented – six-volume set of books that foucs on single ingredients, revealing the artisinal techniques used to create those famous Chanel fragrances. Following the journey of the five main flowers from which the majority of Chanel perfumes are made, we learn about the growing, harvesting and meticulous processing of May rose, Grasse iris, Grasse jasmine, rose geranium and tuberose.
Stunning photographs by Pierre Even ensure a feast for the eyes, with fascinating facts dotted throughout. Did you know, for example, that since the very first bottle was made in the 1921, Chanel No. 5 has been made with flowers from the same picturesque patch of land between the Alps and the Mediterranean, known as the Pégomas Valley?
Gloriously celebratory, this visual tour of the French Rivierea by way of its fragrant flowers just makes us want to jump on a plane and run through the fields in a gauzy white gown and a straw hat, stat. Yes, it’s far pricier than your average book but you are getting a set of six, and these are volumes you’ll want to treasure forever – or give as a really special gift for that ultimate Chanel fan.
Imagine being a member of the Guerlain family (oh, imagine…) and becoming obsessed by the bottles (easy enough even when you’re no relation at all, we find!) and then setting about making an extensive collection of them by scouring the flea markets and antique shops of France to hunt down every last rare example you can find. The book is written in French, but really it’s all about the lovingly documented flacons themselves – page after page of them – with greater emphasis on the visual joys than the writing itself, so even if your French is sub- Sixth Form, you’ll get by just fine.
We think this is the perfect ‘coffee table’ book with which to flagrantly display your love of fragrance – hours of flicking through, gazing and sighing happily are pretty much guaranteed, we feel. It’s so interesting to see how some of the bottles change through time – and those that barely change at all. Definitely one for your Christmas List if you can’t quite swing for it yourself right now.
Written by Suzy Nightingale
From a gift that lasts the whole year through to a fragrant read and scented treats for the pickiest of people… we have solved your shopping woes with a one-stop shop for all your scent-loving friends, family and colleagues.
Shopping for others isn’t always so easy. But our Perfume Society themed guide to which-box-for-who can help you make all the right choices. With the mere click of a button, it’s your Christmas list, sorted…
The Perfume Society is the go-to authority on fragrance choosing, wearing, ‘after-care’, history, news, ‘noses’ and much, much more. So why not gift someone a VIP subscription so they can join our ranks?
As a VIP (a Very Important Perfumista), they receive a welcome Perfume SocietyDiscovery Box of samples, accompanied by our exclusive ‘smelling notes’, designed to introduce the key fragrance families – plus Perfume Society sampling blotters and a bespoke notebook for their fragrant thoughts.
They’ll have priority access to exclusive Perfume Society events through the year, and will receive eight digital editions of our award-winning online magazine The Scented Letter. And with their VIP Subscriber card they’ll be entitled to special privileges and exclsuive discounts at stores including Penhaligon’s and Miller Harris, among many other treats. It’s the win-win choice and don’t forget – this gift will last for twelve whole months, so you’ll be in their good books for an entire year…!
Our Discovery Boxes can be a great gift for someone who is passionate about perfume or a complete novice. Each box is carefully curated and scent-fully themed – we use our fantastic perfume world contacts to bring you an array of well known, niche and latest launches.
Why give just one scent, when you can introduce them to a whole wardrobe of fragrance?! We include expertly written smelling notes, so the wearer can impress with their new-found knowledge when people say ‘you smell amaaazing! What perfume are you wearing…?’
Written by The Perfume Society‘s Founders, Jo Fairley and Lorna McKay, The Perfume Bible is must for every fragrance-lover. An encyclopaedia of all things fragrant – from how to build a perfume ‘wardrobe’ to a line-up of the 100 perfumes to try before you die – it brings together their combined years of experience and wealth of knowledge. You’ll discover the journey of ingredients from field to flacon, a run-down of the best perfume shops in the world, the history of scent and much more in 192 pages of invaluable expertise.
Alongside The Perfume Society’s own selections, you’ll now find scented boxes from fabled and ‘rising star’ perfumery names including Shay & Blue, Santa Eulalia, Molton Brown,Ormonde Jayne and more with exciting new discoveries added all the time. There’s a box for every budget, with prices from £12.50 – £78 – and The Perfume Society Subscribers can take advantage of special prices: from as little as £10…
The fuss-free solution for those uncertain about what to buy that perfume-loving special someone… The Perfume Society Gift Card is available in £15, £25 and £50 options and can be redeemed across any item in the shop section of our website – our magazine or copies of The Perfume Bible, VIP Subscription, Discovery Boxes and more!
We hope this has given you a good start to your seasonal shopping – but do look out for our forthcoming posts explaining in-depth how you can make a fragrance lover’s year with whatever gift you choose…
Written by Suzy Nightingale
Game of Thrones Season 6 has finally begun, to the nail-biting, breath-holding anticipation of the series’ legions of fans around the world. Having once been asked for our advice on scents to suit zombies by a certain TV programme’s producers (yes, really.
We’re on standby for pretty much any fragrant conundrum here at The Perfume Society HQ!) it got us pondering how we’d perfume some of the main players from another of our must-watch shows.
Interestingly, Game of Thrones had its very own scent for a time, with the website Think Geek selling a fragrance called ‘Fire and Blood’ – though this no longer seems to be available. Whether you’re a die-hard enthusiast of the books or TV series, or simply have an interest in boldly characterful fragrances, we think these are worth exploring, instead…
Unique and youthful, fresh, willful and difficult to define – this pocket-friendly Cologne is a tempestuous mixture of cold steel and sweetness, electricity and petrichor; that tingle in your senses of dark clouds obscuring a bright sky before the heavens open and the downpour begins.
Library of Fragrance Thunderstorm £15 for 30ml cologne spray
Buy it at Boots
A mysterious harmony of dark forests and sunlight fighting its way through misty undergrowth, it’s perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour’s abstract portrait of a hazelnut tree. Freshly green buds unfurl to amber-hued leaves, creamy woods slowly drip rich, honeyed droplets to an earthily sweet forest floor as tendrils of smoke hearald a slow-burning dry-down that’s alive with magic.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Méchant Loup £87 for 100ml eau de toilette
Buy it at House of Fraser
Wild flower meadows kissed with a cold sea breeze, a tangled bouquet of delicate flowers and juicy berries surrounded by thorny stems. Capturing the dramatic landscape where land meets ocean, within the refined flacon perfectly tied with a grossgrain ribbon lurks a scent of innocence blooming into something altogether more unpredictable in nature.
Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom £90 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Penhaligon’s
Frostily attractive with a minty herbaceousness that gives way to dryly brooding undertones, it’s been splashed on since 1988 and although it may be passed over by those seeking more spirited adventure in their fragrance journey, it should never be overlooked. Simplicity is sometimes written off as dull, but this still has an icy masculinity that longs for a secret snuggle.
Staggeringly provocative with a vastness that can fill a room, this is full-on waxy tuberose seduction that could double as a weapon if you so wished. Razor-sharp white flowers whistle through the air like silver bullets, tempered only by a buxom bouquet of velvety roses and crown of orange blossom resting on a glamorously musky base.
Robert Piguet Fracas £95 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Selfridges
Classically handsome and knows it, winsomely charming with a bracingly rugged edge, 50 years ago this was the first male fragrance by Dior and broke new ground. Described as ‘absolutely wild and resolutely sensual’, this is bergamot balanced with a mossy, floral heart for the ‘new man’ or ‘metrosexual’ – a forward-thinking guy who favours facials but still hankers after a spot of sword-fighting – before the term was coined.
Dior Eau Sauvage £49.50 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Debenhams
Soaked in boozy fruits, tenaciously strong yet crowd-pleasingly smooth at heart, bobbing in the perfumed punch bowl we find juicy pineapple, orange, plump raisins and dried plums soaking up the alcohol; while cocoa, tonka and coffee lead to vine blossom, peppered honey and spiced vanilla. Definitely one for those with a taste for the finer things in life.
Frapin 1270 £98 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Bloom
‘Darker than night, stronger than desire, what is the line between passion and the urge to dominate?’ A question posed by Blood Concept – a line inspired by blood types and their inherent proclivities – and answered thus: Milky pools of liquid cedarwood charged with black pepper, laden with glowering guaiac wood and resinous patchouli sinuously seeping into the flickering heat of amberwood and incense.
Compellingly unusual with notes of cade oil, spikenard (praised for its curative, medicinal properties) spicily perfumed cardamom pods, clearwood and darkly glistening berries; the labdanum-rich smoky base is one to clamour for. One moment it’s all refined sophistication with bone dry woods and the next, passionate, carnal, and mysterious.
Imaginary Authors A City On Fire £70 for 60ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Roullier White
Fans wishing to mark the #Shakespeare400 anniversary of the Bard’s death, may wish to make like Coriolanus and ‘Bid them wash their faces / And keep their teeth clean’ by presenting a loved-one with Heyland & Whittle‘s ‘To Beard or not to Beard’ gift-boxed commemorative Shakespeare Soap.
Delightfully packaged in a book-like gift box, instead of merely including a leaflet describing the soap, Heyland & Whittle have allowed the muses to inspire them and written their own little homage – a playlet called ‘The Two Gentlemen of Castile’ – containing puns, quotations and clever quips for the discerning customer to persuse as they lather up, whether to shave or not to shave…
With natural moisturising properties and a vibrant citrus fragrance including essential oils, herbs and spices, whether they choose to shave or just wash and go, it makes a great gift for would-be whiskery thesps and bearded bibliophiles alike.
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