Fragrant Reads we recommend: The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson

Writing about perfume, and smells in general, is one of the greatest challenges for a journalist/author: how to evoke scents, with words…? But over the years, quite a few have done so very, very successfully. And if you want to build a ‘perfume bookshelf’, to deepen your knowledge of perfumery, start here

As you become ever-more-obsessed (and we know how that feels), you may want to add to your collection – and of course, we’ll add to this section whenever new releases catch our eye. However, today we are wondering about gifts to give perfume-lovers when you’re not sure exactly what they own, but want to get them something you know they’ll enjoy. Or perhaps you’re looking to snuggle up with a good book yourself, to escape the madness of the season?

This week we have our noses stuck in the wonderful novel, The Scent of You

I experience the world through smell – I always have.’ So begins the perfume-inspired story by Maggie Alderson, and we couldn’t agree more. Maggie was actually 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. 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. 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.’ We’re rather wondering who this may have been based on, as that description doesn’t sufficiently narrow it down… Completely gripping, the story of a life in crisis and wonderfully observed, it’s a perfect holiday read for anyone who also experiences the world through smell (that’ll be most of you, then!)

Publisher: Harper Collins
At waterstones.com

We’d always prefer you support an independent bookstore rather than One-Clicking on Amazon – these indie stores can happily order most in-print books. However, in a super-busy world, we know it isn’t always practical. (And if you’re happy to buy secondhand – most titles are available via Amazon – this does often support smaller bookstores.)

Looking for out-of-print perfume titles in secondhand bookstores can be like searching for a needle in a haystack, meanwhile. If you’re in a hurry, we generally recommend abebooks.com, which links thousands of secondhand bookstores around the world, while Amazon can be a source for remaindered books.

Recreating ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’

Occasionally, you’re scrolling through Instagram and something particularly catches your eye. Today it was, firstly, a still from the magnificent film adaptation of Patrick Süsskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. And secondly, the rather intriguing text beneath…

‘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: workshop@mediamatic.nl

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!

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

Fabulous new fragrant reads to get your nose stuck into

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…


The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson (HarperCollins AU), 32.99 AUD

‘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.
 

CHANEL – The Art of Creating Fragrance by Lionel Paillès (Abrams Books), £125

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.
 

Flacons Guerlain: Collection de Sylvie Guerlain, by Bernard Gangler (Chêne), £42.24

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