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
 
 
 

Fragrant reads as festive gifts? Snuggle by the fireside and enjoy five of our favourites…

Is there anything as satisfying in these cold, dreary days, as settling by the fireside, reclining on a chaise lounge (or lounging on the sofa in your favourite old pyjamas – however the mood takes you!) while sipping a cup of hot chocolate (or, y’know, gin) and getting your nose stuck in a good book? When the tome you’ve chosen is all about fragrance, all the better – and a great add-on gift for your fellow ‘fumeheads, too.
You can find an entire library in the Fragrant Reads section of the website – but these top this booklist of our seasonal, perfume-themed recommendations. (Click on the blue book titles to find them on-line.)
 

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Perfume: A Century of Scents by Lizzie Ostrom

Under the premise of ‘every perfume has a tale to tell’ the wonderful olfactive adventurer, Lizzie Ostrom, explores signature scents and long-lost masterpieces while waxing lyrical about the often wildly wacky characters and campaigns that launched them. Lizzie tells each tale with her trademark wit, yet filled with fascinating facts. We were glued to the pages from the moment we first held a copy, and this completely charming, totally accessible book is a real treasure trove of memories to savour.
 

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Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel

More than a history of fragrance, this book brilliantly looks behind the scenes at the evolution of fragrance-making, and packs plenty of info about essential oils and their attributes.  A ‘natural’ perfumer herself, working only with botanical essences (and with her own fragrance line, based in California – Aftelier – and in the closing chapters it segues into a how-to book that’s a good place to start if you want to become your own ‘perfume mixologist’, and deepen your understanding and love of perfumery by having a go at making fragrance yourself…
 

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A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

This one can be difficult to get hold of, but is often available on Amazon’s second-hand marketplace. Do find it if you can – Ackerman’s writing is exquisite – we’d call it poetic, actually – 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.  You’ll learn answers to questions you never knew you had, and though this book is over 20 years old, it’s timeless…

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The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Perfumer by Jean-Claude Ellena

A quiet and thoughtful man who works in his own hilltop atelier well away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial perfumery world, this chronicles Jean-Claude Ellena’s thoughts, inspirations and global travels while working on new launches.  Most fascinating to us is the short section at the back in which Jean-Claude shares some of the harmonies and accords he’s perfected over the years:  his aim is to create a specific scent with the minimum of notes.  Who knew that you could conjure up the scent of sugared almonds with just vanillin, benzoin and benzaldehyde…?

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British Perfumery – A Fragrant History

Dedicated to the fascinating history of British Fragrance (dating back to the 16th Century), this stunning book takes you on a journey through the esteemed heritage of The British Society of Perfumers, their famous clients (including royalty) and follows the scented trail right through to the great British houses carrying the fragrance flag today, and in to the future.

Formed in 1963, the British Society of Perfumers came together as a way of helping individual perfumers improve their status and deserved recognition as leading lights of the creative output this country offers the world. Celebrating the profession past and present while marking their own 50th anniversary, the book was conceived by their President – John Bailey – working with contributors Helen Hill, Yvonne Hockey and Matthew Williams. Beautiful, packed full of facts and endlessly delve-in-able, we think it’s definitely one to place on a coffee-table to have your guests swooning…

Writing about perfume really is an art all of its own. (If we do say so ourselves!) So from these fragrant reads. we are sure you’ll find something to set your senses alive – something to gift to a fragrance loving friend or to keep for yourself.

What other scent-centered books have you been getting your nose stuck into, lately? Do get in touch by emailing  info@perfumesociety.org and let us know if there’s anything missing from our ever-expanding bookshelves…

Written by Suzy Nightingale