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Perfect Scent

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  872 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
No journalist has ever been allowed into the ultrasecretive, highly pressured process of originating a perfume. But Chandler Burr, the New York Times perfume critic, spent a year behind the scenes observing the creation of two major fragrances. Now, writing with wit and elegance, he juxtaposes the stories of the perfumes - one created by a Frenchman in Paris for an exclusi ...more
Published September 1st 2008 by Tantor Audio Pa (first published January 22nd 2008)
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Petra X
Nov 13, 2015 Petra X rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Petra X by: M
I finished this book a while back. I'm not sure what to say except that Chandler Burr knows the perfume industry inside out. Knowing that, it seems odd to me that there are no scandals, everyone behaves perfectly well and fairly. This just isn't how business works, this is how PR works. Another revenue stream for the author?

Additionally Sarah Jessica Parker has far, far more input into 'her' perfume than any of the other celebrities who have no input at all, they are just advertising faces on n
Jan 15, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Time on To-Read List: 1 year (5 months on physical pile, given by a friend)
Reason for Still Lurking on To-Read: Not What Fingers Spasmodically Reach For
Motivation For Finally Picking It Up: I read the first few pages (and then didn’t stop).

Man, if you would have told me that I would read, much less enjoy, much less THROUGHLY enjoy and insist upon reading aloud from on multiple occasions, what is essentially an industry analysis book, I would have held out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Kelly. Nice
Nov 16, 2008 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have probably worn cologne less than a handful of times in my life. I have no real interest in perfume. And yet, I was drawn to this book precisely because of my lack of interest in the subject. Perfume is something I so rarely think about that the idea that whole lives revolve around this intrigued me (just as say, a book about hair care products probably would, or laundry detergent). Burr, who covers the perfume industry for the New York Times (again, another surprise--that someone on a news ...more
Mar 27, 2009 Melody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this immensely. It's one of those books one carries around reading aloud from. Full of fascinating chemistry tidbits as well as the slightly less fascinating celebrity/designer ones. Burr's scathing, off-the-cuff assessments of current perfumes are hilarious, as are his other asides. Here's a favorite quote:

"Perfumers are deeply strange people simply because their sensorial perception of the world is so highly trained. The educated olfactory capacity makes spending time with them not u
Molly Ringle
Jan 20, 2013 Molly Ringle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's quite likely that anyone with a fanatical perfume hobby, such as me, will eat up this book. I certainly did. It covered some territory I already knew, but on the whole it was quite the eye-opener about the strange and magical and illogical world of modern perfumery. Burr's assorted opinions on various fragrances are at times hilarious (he compares certain popular scents to weed killer and nerve gas), and always evocative ("the scent of a European man removing his underwear in August"--okay, ...more
Jan 05, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am slightly anosmic so I'm very curious about what it's like to experience perfumes. Chandler Burr writes about perfumes using evocative images from your other senses so that I can kind of experience the perfume. Here is an example:

"Lovely" is the lightest olfactory party dress of powder and sweet, the scent equivalent of the terrific wrap of soft floating mesh fabric I saw one summer enveloping the shoulders of a young woman, a physical cloud she wore elegantly through the East Village street
Mar 06, 2009 Jane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a bit of a let-down after having just read Chandler Burr's previous book. It was hard to get excited about Sarah Jessica Parker nor even about the perfumer Jean Claude Ellena. Details about industry and the celebrity stuff didn't grab me. Turns out he wrote this at an outdoor cafe in Rome. Not a surprise - you can tell his priorities were elsewhere.
Mar 12, 2009 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr is the story of creating and marketing a fragrance for the very rich and two disparate approaches taken by luxury houses in the trade. One, the anonymous (to the public at large) but indispensable perfumier working for an absolutely top-of-the-line house (in this case, Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermes), the other, the launch of a "celebrity scent", in this case Sarah Jessica Parker's for Coty.
My first thought, even before opening the book, was "There's such a thi
Apr 19, 2011 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Let me preface this review by saying that I don't know anything about perfumes. I had no real awareness of it growing up (my mother never wore scents) and even though I'm always curious, the sheer cost of "getting into" perfume has put me off it for the time being. However, I picked up this book because I love the behind-the-scenes details of any industry and perfume has always been extra mysterious to me.

I'm usually pretty slow when it comes to reading nonfiction but this book just sped by for
Apr 06, 2009 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I've recently gotten very interested in perfume, so of course I was dying to read this. Burr is the perfume critic for the New York Times (who knew?), and he follows the creation of two perfumes -- Lovely, a celebrity scent for Sarah Jessica Parker created by a commercial house in New York, and Un Jardin Sur le Nil, created by luxury house Hermes' new in-house "nose," Jean-Claude Ellena.

I got the feeling that Burr spent so much time with the people in the Parker camp (especially Parker herself,
Feb 14, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Perfect Scent takes you deep inside the perfume industry on both sides of the Atlantic, where we get to be voyeurs through the creation of two distinctive products - one for a celebrity in Manhattan, one the arcane art of a traditional french perfumer.

This is an excellent book that leads the reader into the strange world of an industry, tradition and set of skills that most of us would know nothing about. It makes no apology for getting into extreme detail, or for not dumbing-down the story
Christian West
Feb 11, 2015 Christian West rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story alternates between the development of two perfumes; Un Jardin sur le Nil, and Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely.
Un Jardin sur le Nil was developed for Hermès by their new in-house perfumer and his story contains information about the history of the modern perfume industry as well as information on the French aspects of perfumery.
Sarah Jessica Parker's story was fascinating as she is one of the few celebrities to have proper creative input into the design of a scent featuring her name. Her
Mar 17, 2014 M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
YMMV on this one, depending on how much you know about the perfume industry. Since I knew zilch, this was a fascinating read and I couldn't get enough of it. From the super prestige scent-making at Hermes, to the more commercial celebrity scent-selling at Coty, it provided a really interesting, and contrasting, view of how the perfume industry works today. If you're interested in the subject, I'd definitely recommend it, despite Burr's tendency to translate French, etc. immediately after using i ...more
Jan 19, 2008 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The information that Chandler Burr was able to dig up and touch upon during his year 'inside' the perfume industry is amazing. He really does get in and write about things that the common fragrance consumer would not know, and the industry might not necessarily want him/her to know, about what goes into the making of two particular fragrances. They were fascinating stories to follow, filled with interesting characters.

I was not, however, a fan of Burr's writing style, which became too parentheti
Mar 11, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodwriting
I picked at it, and liked a lot of it, but I don't think I'll finish it. It reminds me of food writing, in the way it makes you think about a sensory experience. What goes into creating the scent of a perfume (a lot!), the evolution of techniques, different schools of thought, inside baseball and backbiting -- fun stuff. But the book is kind of ponderous and I'm losing interest. Also, the author clearly has a crush on Sarah Jessica Parker (he follows her around as she's developing her perfumes) ...more
Jul 17, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An most interesting look at what goes into creating a new scent from the brief that describes what the story the perfume should tell, right through to the placement of the display at the perfume counter. The author works with two very different companies, Cody and Hermès, following as each launchs of a new scent. Cody is develops a scent, Lovely, with Sarah Jessica Parker. It is a celebrity scent, but the very likable Parker has much more input and is much more involved than is usually the case. ...more
Mr. Burr also wrote about Luca Turin - and having read Turin's "Secret of Scent" which I liked very much, I went in search of Mr. Burr's work.
That and my Mom read it and recommended it and my interest was piqued when she told me it recounted the making of Hermes, Le Jardin Sur la Nil, which I wear. In fact, the book should be an interesting reflection on our house, as I own Le Jardin Sur la Nil and Kate owns both Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely (profiled in this book) and her subsequent scent, Cov
Apr 07, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Halfway through I wanted to scream 5/5 to the sky. "Fascinating, fascinating fascinating!" Then it dipped. Kept dipping. Then picked up, but stumbled. Finally it settled. So while I actually feel more 3/5 than 4/5, I'm going higher just because those first ~140pp were that gripping. I couldn't care less about the subject going into the thing. I decided to borrow it after a guest on a monthly Australian book club television program introduced it. Then postponed it for about a month. Then got to i ...more
Aug 13, 2008 Owen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book follows the launch of 2 perfumes: Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker and Un Jardin sur le Nil (sp??) by Hermes. Given my recent obsession with perfume, it is a perfect book for me to read. And how cool that I actually have smelled (and liked) both perfumes being launched? If you decide to read this book, hie thee to a Sephora and get samples of each of the perfumes. It will make reading this smellarific! ;)
Mar 21, 2014 Yellowoasis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I love fragrances, and heard a good review of this book. I did enjoy it, but the amount of detail was overwhelming. I think it started as a long-form magazine article, and it would have perhaps been better in that format. The amount of detail made it difficult to grasp – perhaps that was the point, that the perfume industry is so vast and complex and full of arcane mystery. I wasn’t sure I needed to know every single detail of each and every meeting Sarah Jessica Parker had with the perfume exec ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Doreen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Chandler Burr's original New Yorker article on Un Jardin Sur Nil when it came out and remember being absolutely fascinated. Mr Burr is an excellent journalist and writer, and he really drew me into a world which I never really give much thought to otherwise. This book expands upon that original article and, even better, includes the research he did following Sarah Jessica Parker through the unprecedented creation of her scent, Lovely (if you're a fan of hers, this book is essential readin ...more
Apr 14, 2011 Amelia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is as close as you'll ever get to action adventure writing in the world of perfume. It clearly illustrates, and name drops like a pro, the New York and Paris experience of bringing a scent from licensing agreement to consumer market launch - if you were ever interested... not for the anosmic or those who could careless about the business of international fragrances.
Oct 25, 2009 Jenne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not quite sure why I find his books so fascinating--is it the subject matter or his writing? Either way, I finished it in one day, and immediately went online and ordered a bunch of perfume samples so I could find out what he was talking about.
Aug 13, 2016 Y rated it liked it
Borrowed it just because I was surprised that there even existed books about perfume. Thinking about it, it really shouldn't be surprising, as books exist covering every subject possible; it just never crossed my mind as perfume isn't really an interest of mine.

All in all it was decently interesting, with a bit too many French phrases (directly followed by the English translation, which just feels like unnecessary padding), and occasional long lists of chemical components making up perfumes here
Irene Sauman
Apr 05, 2014 Irene Sauman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for the Aussie Readers group non-fiction challenge. It was already on my to-read list. Chandler Burr is a journalist and the story of the two scents he followed - one for French design house Hermes and the other for Coty for Sarah Jessica Parker - is an eye-opener into the perfume industry. Burr has definite views on some of the colognes and perfumes that are available and details his opinions in no-nonsense language, perhaps to the annoyance of the design houses they come from. The ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book. I lived in a different sensory world while reading it. The book follows the development of two fragrances. Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely and Jean Claude Ellena's Un Jardin Sur le Nil for Hermes. It is the passages describing Jean Claude Ellena's artistry and poetic vision that enrapture the reader. Although Sarah Jessica Parker's journey is interesting it cannot compare to the glimpses we get into Jean Claude Ellena's world. I could not get enough of his vision. The w ...more
Jun 29, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a scent critic for T: the New York Times Style Magazine. He took a year to follow Hermes' perfumer Jean Claude Ellena as he created a perfume and also followed Sarah Jessica Parker as she lent her name, and personal time and attention to the creation of a celebrity scent.
It is quite a fascinating read showing the differences between the French and US perfume industries along with the the hows and whys of using natural and synthetic fragrances, and the laborious route to creating t
Feb 11, 2015 Jackie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-books
I would have never picked up this book to read, except it was suggested for book club. I don't often wear fragrance because most female fragrances give me a terrible headache (which runs in my family, on my father side).

I found this book to be fascinating. I really never thought about what makes a fragrance, or how it is made, but is explained as a piece of art that tells a story. After reading this book, it totally makes sense.

I wound up switching from the hardback book to the audio edition in
While this was an interesting peek into the insular and strange world of perfumery, I found the book itself somewhat frustrating. For one thing, it definitely seemed like what it originally was: two articles. The merger into one book was not entirely successful. Also, some meetings, gatherings, parties, etc. were minutely described in painstaking detail, while others were sketched in quasi-poetic sentence fragments. Not very consistent in style. However, I was glad I read it because the world of ...more
Jul 23, 2014 Alires rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love perfumes and this was a unique view into the industry and the people in it. It made me want to go and buy the two perfumes that are featured in the origin stories. Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely and Covet - I never would have looked at this celebrity perfume, but knowing that she was hands on from the beginning to the end, really made me take a second look. Though the book you find out that every celebrity and designer name perfumers do not take part in the development of their scents. The ...more
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Chandler Burr is the New York Times scent critic and author of The Perfect Scent, The Emperor of Scent, and A Separate Creation. He has written for the Atlantic and the New Yorker. He lives in New York City.
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“I know someone who believes that Hugo Boss scents constitute proof that God does not exist.” 0 likes
“They asked Picasso, "What do you do when you're inspired?" Picasso said, "I work." They asked, "What do you do when you find yourself blocked creatively?" Picasso said, "I work.” 0 likes
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