Are you ready to escape in The Perfume Garden…? We’ve found a perfect scent-themed book for spring

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown might just be the perfect book to escape with (seeing as we still can’t travel very far). We’ve only recently discovered it and, of course, immediately added it to our Fragrant Reads bookshelves. Now, here’s why you should read it, too…

‘I understand why creating a perfumer protagonist is catnip for novelists,’ says Angela in her pithy review on the Now Smell This blog. ‘Perfume is glamorous, and the art of creating fragrance holds more mystery than, say, playing the cello. But so many novelists butcher perfumery. Often they portray noses as bloodhounds who can sniff a sprig of mint down the block, but they ignore the heart of creating a perfume — beautiful, effective composition.’

Mercifully, she notes, ‘Kate Lord Brown avoids this pitfall.’ Adding: ‘Thank you, Brown, for not spending paragraphs having your perfumer heroine wax on about the smell of a carrot that was raised in a field fed by spring water run off through alfalfa fields where a gassy Doberman frolicked.’

We have all, I am sure, read (and raised eyebrows at) books like that, or films that overly romanticise what remains, after all, an exact science. Then again, don’t get this book expecting it to be a faithful reconstruction of how a perfumer works.  The main protagonist here, Emma, being a perfumer is more like one of many ingredients rippled through a fragrance, than the entire composition itself. Instead, the pleasure of reading this novel comes from its dreamy, evocative descriptions and the clever weaving together of two stories.

 

 

One story is set in the modern day, just after Emma simultaneously loses not only lost her mother, who was also a perfumer, but the father of her child at the same time. She travels to an abandoned house her mother owned in Valencia, and in renovating it, discovers all manner of disturbing family secrets revealed in the flashback portion of the book, set during the violence of the Spanish Civil War. Interspersed throughout is the sense that the author is fully in tune with her own senses – who understands that taking time to describe a smell not only helps evoke a place, but adds another emotional connection for the reader. At one point, Emma tries to think of a particular fragrance ‘like a half-remembered melody she couldn’t sing’ and imagines the fragrance she would like to make of her time in Spain; writing a list as inspiration:

‘The seduction of white flowers
Woodsmoke and saffron
Lavender mountains, cranberry sunsets
Blue domes
Lemon trees
Floating bridges
Immense night skies pricked with stars.’

Yes please, sign us up for a bottle! The rest of the novel is similarly lush, and should really be enjoyed in the garden, preferably on a sunny days with a glass of something cold, and hopefully sitting somewhere near a heady honeysuckle or fragrant blossom to immerse yourself in glorious scents as you read. It might not be the most detailed description of a perfumer’s work, but it’s a romantic – heartbreaking at times – engaging tale of a house giving up its secrets and the way scent weaves its own tale in all of our lives.

By Suzy Nightingale

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

Nose Dive by Harold McGee – a joyous celebration of our most under-appreciated sense

There are some books that really transcend the boundaries – appealing not only to those already immersed in the subject, but to the wider public – and Nose Dive by Harold McGee is most definitely one of the best we’ve read. So wonderfully connecting the dots between the worlds of smell and taste, it’s no wonder the Sunday Times named it their 2020 Food Book of the Year, calling it ‘A joyously nerdy study of how and what we smell, the effect on our appetites and much more.’

Having worked with some of world’s most innovative chefs, including Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal; McGee has dedicated over a decade of his life to our most overlooked sense, and here gives us not only the facts about the chemistry of food, cooking and smells; but widens this (and encourages us to widen our nostrils) by explaining the science of everyday life and the various whiffs we may encounter along the way.

Think of this as a manual to re-connect you to your nose, heightening your enjoyment and understanding of food but, much more than that – enriching every single part of your life. Along the way, McGee introduces us to the aroma chemicals that surround us, which make up our entire world and colour the way we experience it. It’s a joyous book that should be read by cooks, perfumers, fragrance-addicts and absolutely anyone who has been struck by a smell, wondered what it was and wanted to know more.

Something we especially loved was how clearly this information is laid out – so it can be easily referred to. Each smell mentioned is laid out in a chart of its name/species, the component smells to identify it with, and the molecules that create those smells. Gleefully, some have a column respresenting ‘Also found in’, so we learn, for example, that Some Smells of Cat Urine are like blackcurrant, which is caused by methylbutyl sulfanyl formate, and can also be found in beer and coffee. More fragrantly, many flower varieties are described, along with plant pongs, animals, humans, food (raw, cooked or cured) and the scent of space itself.

Managing to be both scholarly yet immediately accessible, it’s his passion for that subject that really sporings off the page and makes you want to run out into the street and start smelling things with a new appreciation for what you might find. Whether he has you bending to smell wet pavements and marvelling at ambergris, exploring the fruit-filled Himilayan mountain ranges, literally stopping to smell the roses or cautiously approaching a durian fruit… this is a celebration of something the majority of us take so foregranted – until we have it taken away from us. Witness the huge rise in smell-related news stories, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Perhaps now the media are focussing on our sense of smell at last, and realising how important it is to our enjoyment and understanding of every day life, there will be further books like this to enjoy a wider readership than they may have previously. And maybe that will lead to proper funding for the much-needed further research we still so desperately need. Now that’s something to celebrate!

If your intrest in pongs has been piqued, perhaps you’d like to perfuse the many other books about smell and the senses we have reviewed for our Fragrant Reads bookshelf…?

By Suzy Nightingale

World Book Day – fragrant reads to fill your bookshelves with

It’s World Book Day so we’re celebrating by perusing our Perfume Society bookshelf, which is filled with Fragrant Reads – from novels and books of poetry inspired by scent to technical tomes and books that explore the history of fragrance in so many fascinating ways.

Here are just a few of our ‘must reads’ to get your nose stuck in to…

Poetry

 

Atomizer poems, by Elizabeth A.I. Powell
A professor of writing and literature at Northern Vermont University, Elizabeth Powell writes poems that immerse us in what fellow author Dianne Seuss describes as ‘the perfumery of seduction.’ Harnessing her sense of smell and recalling often painful memories through scented snapshots, we are plunged into her world, seeing the world not only through her eyes, but through Powell’s nose.

 

The Book of Scented Things – 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume, Edited by Jehanne Dubrow
The culmination of a unique aromatic and poetical experiment – an anthology based on this original concept of deliberately provoking with perfume and collecting the results. Hence we discover poems of deeply personal childhood memories, that relate directly to a sense of place and more deep-seated philosophical longings.

 

The power of smell

 

The Smell of Fresh Rain, by Barney Shaw
From describing petrichor (the actual smell of fresh rain) 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 journey to be part of. Merely reading this book expands your mind to the possibilities and scents you take forgranted every single day.

 

A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman
The title doesn’t do this justice: Diane Ackerman’s writing is exquisite, exploring and explaining not just the sense of smell, but all the senses. In the first chapter – Smell – she looks at scent and memory, at roses, at sneezing, at the way our health (and what we eat) impacts on our body odour. Something to read that shakes the very foundations of how you’ll look at smell and fragrance.

 

Perfume-themed novels

 

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Traversing decadently through the decades in New York, Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, Grace discovers she’s the beneficiary of a famed fragrant muse who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers to immortalise her in three groundbreaking fragrances. As she finds out more, Grace is forced to choose between the image of what society experts of her, and who she really is…

 

The Scent of You, by Maggie Alderson
‘I experience the world through smell – I always have.’ We couldn’t agree more, and Maggie was inspired to write this novel by spending time in our own Perfume Society office! The 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 connect to.

Why not have a good browse of our Fragrant Reads for more suggestions and reviews of scent-themed books we think you’ll fall in love. We’re always adding more, so having treated yourself to a tome for World Book Day, do check back often!

By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrant Reads – Smell: A Very Short Introduction

Part of a fantastic series by Oxford University Press, Smell: A Very Short Introduction by Matthew Cobb is an easy to read and very accessible intro to the incredibly nuanced, complicated and still most misunderstood sense…

Small in stature but big on fragrant facts, it’s one of those ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ type publications, being an overview of ‘the science and physiology of smell and its historical, cultural, and environmental significance,’ in which Cobb reveals exactly what happens in our brains when we smell something, and how our human olfactory processes differ from those of mammals, birds, and insects.

At The Perfume Society we are, of course, fully on-board with how important our sense of smell is; and we suppose seing as you’re here, you agree. But our sense of smell still lags behind – in scientific research and the wider public understanding – in being discussed and even thought about on a daily basis. We wonder, however, if the recent links between Covid-19 and smell loss (and that anosmia being an early indicator of Covid, among many other medical conditions that doctors are still investigating) if smell will be taken more seriously from now on?

After all: ‘The connection between smell and memory is more than a literary conceit’ Cobb shows, ‘with smells proving more effective than images at unlocking memories.’ Cobb does a good job of explaining how ‘The same odour can have different meanings to different people. Smells themselves are often blends, and our reactions to them are influenced by our memories and cultural conditioning,’ as well as asking bigger questions, such as: ‘Is there a link between smell and genetics?’

Although we’ve said it’s accessible, that doesn’t mean it skimps on taking scent seriously, and this book can be read by those interested in smell and fragrance at most levels of understanding – from complete novice to the already well-read. It’s also a great gift for friends and family members who perhaps don’t ‘get’ why we’re so obsessed with smells!

Get it at Oxford University Press

If you’d like some more recommendations to fill your scented bookshelves, do have a look at our ever-expanding list of Fragrant Reads. We’ve reviews of everything from scent-themed romance novels to seriously weighty science books, and stunning coffee-table tomes to a tale of Guerlain’s history told in graphic novel form…

By Suzy Nightingale

 

Fragrant books to snuggle up & fall in love with

There’s all manner of fragrantly themed books on our shelf of scented reading, but did you know that among the many stunning coffee-table books and more scientific, technical tomes; there are a number of romance novels and floral volumes we think you’ll fall in love with?

Spring is just around the corner, we know, but until it fully blooms we’re still somewhat in hibernation mode. So why not grab a cup of coffee or indulge yourself with hot chocolate, wrap yourself in a cosy blanket and take some time to snuggle up with one of these brilliant perfume-related books…?

 

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

This ‘richly evocative novel is a ‘secret history of scent, memory and desire’ and begins in the 1950s with newly-married socialite Grace Munroe’s life being turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious letter, naming her as the beneficiary in the will of a woman called Eva D’Orsay. Requested to attend the offices of the lawyers handling her inheritence, the main problem is that Grace has never even heard of this woman. But her journey of discovery will lead to the heart of the perfume world, travelling to Paris and exploring the life and death of this shadowy benefactor who, it turns out, was the darling of high society in the 1920s. Traversing decadently through the decades in New York, Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, Grace discovers Eva was a famed fragrant muse, and someone who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers to immortalise her in three groundbreaking fragrances. As Grace finds out more, and indulges her own senses, she will be changed forever when forced to choose between the image of what society experts of her, and who she really is…

Buy it at waterstones.com

 

The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson

‘I experience the world through smell – I always have.’ So begins this novel by Maggie Alderson, and we couldn’t agree more. Maggie was inspired to write this novel by spending time in our own Perfume Society office, attending launches and meeting perfumers, learning the history of perfume and developing a burning passion for it along the way. 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. Polly, 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!’ she is now distracting herself with, among other things, ‘Guy, the mysterious, infuriating and hugely talented perfumer.’ Completely gripping, the story of a life in crisis and wonderfully observed, it’s a perfect cosy read for anyone who also experiences the world through smell (that’ll be most of you, then!)

Buy it at waterstones.com

 

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 as this ability means painful memories about her mother are carried on the breeze, 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. Searching for a composition within her family’s historic archives, Elena’s new goal becomes the replication of a secret scented recipe that nobody in her family managed to master…

Buy it at Penguin

 

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

From harlots & hippies: how patchouli got cool again

Patchouli might as well be called the ‘Marmite of the perfume world’ as those of us who fall firmly in the LOVE IT camp have our passionately held views matched only by those who devoutly HATE IT. But perhaps if you have always languished on the loathing side of the fragrant fence, you might have your mind changed by this book we’ve recently added to our Fragrant Reads bookshelves…?

Part of a series of extremely informative ‘naturals notebooks’ on some of perfumery’s key ingredients, written and published in conjunction with NEZ (the French olfactory magazine) and LMR (Laboratoire Monique Rémy – one of the world’s leading producers of naturals used in the fragrance industry); Patchouli is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into their favourite fragrance notes. As confirmed patchouli-heads, here at The Perfume Society, of course we had to begin with this one!

 

‘Once seen as a scent favoured by courtesans and hippies,’ NEZ explain (hello, yes, we feel seen) ‘patchouli has become a key ingredient in today’s perfumery. Its warm, woody and complex fragrance provides the perfect setting for fresher notes to run free, especially in chypre and oriental perfumes.’ (Two of our favourite fragrance families there, so yes and yes again). An easy read, it manages to walk that fine line between interesting snippets of fragrant facts and a more in-depth and technical look at the processes behind how patchouli is produced. Indeed, NEZ say they wanted to ‘Explore every aspect of this exotic plant, from botany, history, art, gastronomy, literature, agriculture and chemistry, to the perfumers who use it and the perfumes they create.’

FYI: If you’re looking to learn more about patchouli, do have a look at our always-useful Ingredients section.

We really enjoyed the quotes from perfumers who adore patchouli – Bruno Jovanovic saying that ‘…if magic had a scent, it would smell of patchouli!’ and describing why he chose some of the other notes he added to his composition of Monsieur for Éditions de parfums Frédéric Malle, ‘To clothe, enhance, envelope the patchouli so it could become a flagship fragrance in Frédéric’s catalogue.’ With diagrams of historical timelines and distillation techniques, along with reviews of key fragrances to try patchouli in, it’s a short but fact-filled book that’s great to dip in and out of rather than read cover-to-cover, perhaps.

Patchouli NEZ + LMR the naturals notebook, £15.99
Buy it from shymimosa.co.uk

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

Fragrant Reads – Guerlain The Prince of Perfume

Our ever-growing bookshelf of Fragrant Reads just got its first graphic novel – a unique take on telling the scented story of Pierre-Francois-Pascal Guerlain…

We’ve never seen a perfume house’s history played out in comic-book format before, and as a potted perfume biography of founder Pierre-François-Pascal; Guerlain – The Prince of Perfume, by Pierre-Roland Saint-Dizier is a delightful (if rather surprising) presentation.

Written with the help of Laurent Boillot, Guerlain President and CEO, Élisabeth Sirot and Hélène Schney, this is no mere child’s book (though we feel it would be an ideal gift for a younger reader interested in the history of fragrance). It’s well-researched and gives an historical overview of the French Revolution, as a backdrop to Pierre-François-Pascal’s story along the way.

 

 

 

We see him first in 1807 as he falls in love with smelling vanilla, herbs and spices in his father’s shop – memorising the way they smell. Later, Pierre leaves for Paris to work for Briard – already, then, an historic French perfume house – and, as his ambitions grow, learning soap and cosmetic-making, travelling the world as a salesman and working for various perfume and soap houses. As the back of the book’s blurb explains, ‘This young man, who will eventually become known as “Prince of Perfume” and the official perfumer of the European Royal Courts, does not yet realise that he will conquer the world of perfumes and pave the way for a dynasty of perfumers to come.’

 

 

Of course, given the format, it can never be the full story; but as a book of scented snapshots, its a charming and evocative portrait of not only the man who began the Guerlain family empire, but of the birth of modern perfumery, the political climate in France at the time, and a history of our changing tastes in perfume – and the way we shopped for them.

 

 

It can be difficult to find an English translation copy of the book, which we found on an online auction site, but a Kindle version is also available in the original French. Indeed, it may be best to pick up a French copy if you’re able to translate yourself – a great way to encourage French language development in someone interested in perfumery – as the English translation isn’t always perfect, here.

However, it’s a lovely thing to own, charmingly illustrated by artist Li-An throughout, and includes a written appendix detailing the hidtory more thoroughly, and explaining how the author was granted access to the extensive Guerlain archives (including original family letters) in the research. Over all, a fascinating addition to any perfume-lover’s bookshelf!

Buy it on Kindle [French edition] (Glénat) – Also available from second-hand book-sellers.

Want to know more? We suggest starting with our page dedicated to the history of Guerlain, and then exploring the History of Perfumery sections…

By Suzy Nightingale