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Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  95 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews

The exclusive in-house perfumer to HermÃs reveals for the first time the secrets behind the art and business of creating perfume.

To women the whole world over, perfume means glamour, and in the world of perfume, Jean-Claude Ellena is a superstar. In this one-of-a-kind book, the master himself takes you through the doors of his laboratory and explains the process of creat
Hardcover, 118 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by Arcade Publishing (first published 1980)
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Courtney Johnston
My perfume collection recently expanded, in a single heady evening, to thirteen bottles. My collection of perfume books expands more slowly - they are more unpredictable beasts than their subjects.

When I impulse-bought 'Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent' on Amazon, I think I thought that it would be one of those artsy-sciencey floaty bits and bobs, in which Jean-Claude Ellena - one of the highest profile noses in the business, perfumer for Hermes, and also the maker of a number of highly regarded L'
Jun 21, 2012 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an account of how new perfumes are created. The author is a Frenchman who works for Hermes, I believe, and created one of the new modern scents (which has been widely imitated) based on the smell of tea. Modern perfumers seek not just to recreate scents such the smell of roses, but to work with ingredients to create a new scent that is an artistic work. The author uses a large palette of ingredients; one can almost smell the wonderful aromas. However, this book was a little hard to foll ...more
Dave Johnson
i had high hopes for this book since anyone who is into fragrances knows the name Jean-Claude Ellena. he's brilliant. when i saw that he had written a book, i was really excited at first, since i assumed that he would be writing a memoir of sorts, talking about his experience as a perfumer, his philosophy and methods, where he finds his sparks of creativity, etc. and when i found this for a dollar on the kindle store, i couldnt resist. :)

so...this is not a good book. the first quarter of this b
Now that perfumers have become stars in their own right, it is not surprising that they are publishing their own books. Ellena is, of course, one of the most famous perfumers today (and I happen to like his sense of minimalism), so I was curious about his perspective on scent. In the "Introduction" he takes us to his workplace--his villa, far away from an actual laboratory. The "Introduction" is perhaps where he gets most personal. Chapter One is a brief overview of the history of modern perfume ...more
Apr 13, 2015 Iris rated it liked it
A rigidly structured review of perfumery: briefly learn what you need to know about chemistry, history, important figures and organizations past and present, legal and financial issues around particular ingredients, and a reference list of "reference points," or significant scents. The focus is definitely on France and on luxury perfumes as opposed to mass production: he explains the origins and effects of each ingredient in Chanel No. 5, but he doesn't touch on scented kitty litter, or how and ...more
Nazrul Buang
Just finished reading "Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent" (2009) by Jean-Claude Ellena. Ellena is one of the most respected perfumers of our time, and I was interested to read his book.

The impression I got from the title of the book is that Ellena writes about the science behind perfumes, of how their compositions are almost magical. Instead, he discusses the basics of perfumes and even the business aspects of it. In the end, I am not too sure what to make of his book, one of which tries to cover pe
Nov 19, 2016 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2000s, scents
The best part was "The Nose and Odor," where Ellena discusses scent, how we detect it, the role of vapor pressure, our individual detection thresholds, how sensitive we are to distinctions between scents, how recently smelled scents alter the odors we have before us now, how to become more sensitive, and how to develop taste. This is followed by a few short notes on scent description. How do we define an odor's intensity, its tenacity, volatility, and uniqueness?

This book was translated from Fre
Mar 08, 2012 Miloš rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love Jean-Claude Ellena's perfumes and it would not be a stretch to call him my favorite perfumer. So when I saw that he had a book coming out I bought it instantly.

The book is very dry and enumerated save for about a third of it in the middle. In that third he describes -- albeit in a way that leaves you craving for more -- how is it that he comes up with his compositions and his thought process behind them.

The rest of the book was for me boring talk about marketing and the perfume industry.
Teri Zipf
By Jean-Claude Ellena, Perfumer at Hermes. Jean-Claude is French. He lives in a mansion overlooking the sea. He likes Jean Giono, and he makes perfume for Hermes. Right there you know, Jean-Claude is awesome.

The book isn't quite so awesome for the ordinary reader, and I don't think Jean-Claude really had that reader in mind. I think he was writing down his artistic process for young perfumers. That makes sense, even though I can't make sense of it. I'm going to leave it at that and point the ord
Isla McKetta
This is a book that didn't have a defined audience in mind and I think the reviews here on Goodreads reflect that. There is some decent information on what it's like to be a perfumer (though not quite enough) and some interesting tidbits about the science and history of perfume (though, again, not quite enough). What I most enjoyed was his thoughts on creativity and how his process works and how it could work for others.
Jan 12, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of this book is incredibly subjective, like a genius talking about stuff he is preoccupied with and just assuming everyone else will understand. However, it "warms up" about halfway through and suddenly becomes very educational. It's also well-written and not bad at all as a philosophical manual (of life, not just perfume). I loved this glimpse into an esoteric world that fascinates me.
Oct 06, 2011 Monkey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
since this is a translation, it could be the translators style or it could be Ellena's style, but, i found it very straightforward narrative of the process and probably not much interest to anyone who is not passionate about the subject matter. It is, however, probably one of the best inside views of how perfume is made without taking the time to become a nose yourself.
Kate B
Sep 21, 2011 Kate B rated it really liked it
A very inside-baseball look at the world of perfumery from one of the masters of the art who has created many well-known scents for the House of Hermes. A lot of it went over my head, but it's fascinating to see the world through his eyes, and very revealing about the role of scents, fragrance, and perfumes in our modern world.
Dec 04, 2011 C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 24-hours
A really interesting look at some of the easy to understand science of scent. Also cool to see what Ellena thinks, as he is a super-minimalist. I went out and smelled some of the things he made/mentioned in this book and I disagree with how proud of himself he is, but good stuff anyway.
Packed with information, but amateurishly written. I felt like I was reading a high school research paper. On the plus side, it was interesting to learn how Hermès perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena (Terre d'Hermès and Un Jardin en Méditerranée, to name just two big ones) composes his creations.
Jun 07, 2013 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
This book was very dry. I was hoping for more poetry from someone who makes such beautiful perfumes.
Jul 30, 2012 Fern rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slight but fun.
I learned alot about what makes a certain perfume. The author focused on very high end designer scents and the rare substances they contain.
Jenny Novacescu
Nov 04, 2013 Jenny Novacescu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apr 10, 2013 Sanket rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it is jsz an awesum book for those who love perfumes
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