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Perfumes: The A-Z Guide

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  718 ratings  ·  157 reviews
Pompous names, bizarre ads, hundreds of new scents a year?the multibillion-dollar business of fragrance has long resisted understanding. At last the first critical?and critically acclaimed?guide to perfume illuminates the mysteries of this secretive industry. Lifelong perfume fanatics Luca Turin (best known as the subject of Chandler Burr's "The Emperor of Scent)" and Tani...more
ebook, 640 pages
Published April 10th 2008 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,312)
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Courtney
This book is equally fun and frustrating. Turin is a major voice in the burgeoning world of perfume criticism, and he has a lot of knowledge and a gift for sharp insights. I often pick this up when I sample something new to see what the book says about it, and the reviews are very entertaining. What pains me is the 5-star rating system they chose to use. It appeals to our "bottom line" mentality but I worry it will lead less experienced perfume-lovers to start thinking in terms of rankings and t...more
Reese
Combine three of my favorite things, why dontcha: Very expensive perfume, mordant wit and Pynchonesque range on an esoteric subject. For once, the breathless prose in the book jacket does justice to the actual prose within: Turin and Sanchez actually DO separate the divine and good from the monumentally awful. No sacred cows here: They have the balls to nail Serge Lutens on his not-so-great stuff. And the writing! Sweet Lord -- I defy the reader to delve into this book at random and not find a r...more
jennifer
this book never stops giving. the review for jovan's 'sex appeal for men':

Here is more evidence of the glorious world predating the Great Fall that occurred in perfumery circa the 1980s. Sex Appeal for Men, dating from 1976, is, to all appearances, an embarrassing artifact of silly seventies marketing. Inexplicably, I love the ridiculous blue box, which must have changed little in the last thirty years, with its retro typeface and bold claims of raw biological effectiveness. Example: 'This provo...more
Lauren Colombrito
Oct 28, 2008 Lauren Colombrito rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people that know nothing about fragrance
It was nice that Tom was thoughtful and bought me this book since fragrance is my obsession (and job!) After I flipped through it I realized the book was basically 2 people's opinion of different fragrances. To me fragrance is personal and everyone has a different thought of what they like. Fragrance will smell different on me then it will on the next person and vice versa. And what I think is devine someone else may think smells like a grandmother on fire. And NO I am not bitter just because th...more
Jane
I'm even more fascinated by the way people write about smell as I am about perfume itself. Perfume writers, at least the good ones, use some of the same language as wine critics ("citrus top notes"), but seem to be a more imaginative and witty lot. (I live for the Chandler Burr columns in the NYT fashion magazines.) Less pretentious too - It seems that you can't talk about smell for a living without an ability to call a stink a stink. I actually read this book cover-to-cover because the hilariou...more
Lobstergirl
Feb 05, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: New Yorker
Shelves: reference
This is surely the only perfume guide to be blurbed by Hilary Mantel, Philip Hensher, and Dwight Garner (editor of the New York Times book review). It also got a review in the New Yorker, which is where I heard about it. Authors Luca Turin (a visiting olfactory scientist at MIT) and Tania Sanchez (an "avid perfume collector") are very clever and their writing, endlessly entertaining. In an introductory chapter on male fragrance, Turin notes that the male regimen is simple and low maintenance: "O...more
M.K.  Carroll
I don't wear perfume much.

I picked this up from the new books shelf at the public library and opened it to a few random pages. "Hilariously vile 50/50 mix of cheap shampoo and canned peaches." [one star] "...it feels you know your lover well enough to no longer bother closing the bathroom door." [four stars out of five]

The authors take perfume seriously but still know how to have fun with it. This is not one of those guides to perfume you find in a women's magazine (you know, the sort that has...more
Kate
A brilliant discussion of many of the perfumes available as well as information about the perfume industry and male and female scents. Turin and Sanchez write incredibly well informed reviews of over 1500 scents, some of which are bitingly sarcastic due to the dross they are reviewing. This book is an essential guide for anyone interested in perfumes, and training their nose to pick out the gems from the rubbish.

Some people who have read the book have been offended that the scents that they love...more
Ruby Rose Scarlett
This is not a book you can read back-to-back since the bulk of it consists of perfume reviews in alphabetical order. Part of me would have liked for them to be sorted into brands as opposed to names but no matter. The writing style's exquisite and hilarious and well worth the price of the book on its own. I read the lengthy introduction and then hopped from review to review, looking for my favourites and some I'd heard about. Very good resource book. My copy is on my Kindle and I can see now for...more
Terri
Feb 12, 2009 Terri rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terri by: Bellezza
Shelves: 2009
Perfumes: The Guide is a wonderful tribute to the art of perfumery written with humor and passion. The authors write about scent like others write about food or wine and, just like a good food or wine writer will have you seeking out food and drink, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez will have you running for the perfume counter to start sniffing away for that smell that will send you to nirvana.

The book begins with several essays followed by almost fifteen hundred fragrance reviews. A nifty glossary...more
Irene
I got this one from the library and decided that I need to have my own copy, preferably in hardcover, as I love the quality of the pages and heft of the book in my hands. friends: hint hint ;)

I have to thank the Turin/Sanchez team for turning me onto some of their opined masterpieces (Guerlain's l'heure bleue, Bulgari Black). There are some frags to which I've never been exposed and now yearn to sample. So, I thank them for that. And I'll try real hard not to resent their opinion that one of my...more
Leigh-ann
This book is tough to rate. On a positive note, the writing is some of the most original and expressive that I've ever had the pleasure to read. It's funny and thought-provoking, and full of interesting tidbits about the perfume industry. You won't be able to resist reading Turin's reviews about your favourite scents (or scents that you despise).

On the other hand, reading "Perfumes: The Guide" is a bit like reading an encyclopedia. Hundreds of different perfumes are reviewed, sometimes with a si...more
paula
Bought the Kindle version specifically so I'd have on my phone. You never know when you'll find yourself wandering the perfume dept, and you could make some bad choices based on first impressions. These thoughtful, comprehensive reviews (which are also often funny) have led me to sample stuff I'd never have considered (Angel, Lolita Lempicka) and more fully appreciate what I'm smelling. Happy to know that no matter how appealing the bottle and pedigree, I never have to consider buying any of Cre...more
Catherine
Recommended to me by my friend John Q., this book is a must-read for smell obsessives like myself. The reviews are structured like the perfumes they describe: bottom notes of memories and evocations, middle notes on origins, similarities, and similar attempts, and top notes of incisive commentary. While I would not suggest anyone select a fragrance based on any of the reviews (smell is very personal!) the authors list all the notes that go into each fragrance, which is quite useful for those loo...more
Kami
I would recommend this guide for anyone looking to navigate the daunting world of scents. There's a lot of stinky water out there, and some that is just perfect, and this book helps readers understand WHY. The first few chapters are a wonderful introduction to the industry. The individual reviews are comprehensive, well-written, and from my limited experience so far, spot-on. I originally checked out Perfumes: A Guide from the library but ultimately ended up buying it because I think I actually...more
C_Musings
Perfumes The A-Z Guide introduces us to perfume criticism, takes us through the different ways we perceive feminine and masculine fragrances, teaches us how to go about choosing a new scent, and gives us a brief history of perfume. This is all before we come to the frequently asked questions section which is the most comprehensive I’ve seen anywhere. Each chapter is written with not only knowledge, but more humour than you thought possible when discussing perfume. All that’s left are the perfume...more
Pete
I ran out of my cologne months ago and they don't make it any more. So after wasting time gagging on the "top notes" of colognes at department store display counters, I read this book and bought a bottle of something almost affordable on line because the description sounded good, the authors rated it among the their top ten and it was not available to test at the department stores in this here county. None of the top-rated scents were available to test here. I read all 50 pages of text and about...more
Kate
While I don't always agree with Luca Turin's and Tania's assessments of commercial fragrances, they are interesting to read and never fail to entertain. I'm "virtually" acquainted with Tania via the Makeup Alley fragrance board, and I think she brings a nice balance to Luca's writing. The essays at the beginning of the book are worth the price of admission. If you don't know who Luca Turin is, start with Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent for some context.
Carol
Any book about stuff that makes me not only laugh but make me more interested in that stuff deserves four stars. Now I don't agree w/everything these two had to say, but it was very informative and entertaining, and my book already has written and sticky notes all over it, and I have ordered a ton of perfume samples to try.
Cheryl
Jun 15, 2008 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: perfume junkies
While it seems like a daunting task, Turin and Sanchez manage to evoke, in words, all of the emotion (and emotional baggage) that we associate with scents. While their raves are sweetly poetic, it's their biting, laugh-out-loud negative reviews that make this well worth a read.
GraceAnne
If you are beguiled by scent as I am, you will find this funny and witty and sly and astonishingly informative. The fact that they write a lovely paragraph about my favorite perfume (Songes by Annick Goutal) does not hurt.
Giselle
The authors propose to elevate perfume from a mere product to that of art. The idea of scent as art is lost on me. I view it as an experience at most. Yes, it can be described in familiar artistic terms, yet so can food and wine. I wouldn't classify those as art either. Others do. Given this stance the authors rated fragrances on a 5 star system that was based solely on opinion. Not helpful to me in the least aside from a general descriptor I could easily find on a bottle's packaging - which, by...more
Gervy
The edition I actually read was "Perfumes: The A-Z Guide"(2009), a revised and updated paperback edition. It's written by Luca Turin, a biophysicist, and Tania Sanchez, a journalist, who married after writing the book together.

One of my favourite writers, India Knight, refers to this book as being the King Jame Bible of perfume, as well as being "terrifyingly erudite and hilariously funny". It's true. Ordinarily I would not read (or at least, thoroughly skim - there are in excess of 1000 fragran...more
Troy Dufrene
Nov 19, 2008 Troy Dufrene rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: shameless dilitantes
I first discovered Luca Turin, the biophysicist with an olfactory obsession, in Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent. In Perfumes, Turin teams up with Tania Sanchez--who appears to be something of a jet-setting hipster--to write pithy little reviews of a huge number of fragrances.

Sound stupefyingly dull? It would be, except for the fact that Turin has a wryness and wit that ranks him with Saki and James Thurber. His ability to unravel olfaction in metaphor is uncanny, as when he describes one of...more
Peregrine
Aug 17, 2008 Peregrine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in fragrance
If you have ever been interested in perfume, this is an incredibly good place to start! The reviews in this book are incredibly easy to grasp, even if you have little knowledge of the perfume industry. They are in turns smart, funny, snarky and sometimes downright cruel. But they offer information that helps us understand if we will relate and be interested in sampling these scents - many that I have already sampled I found myself reading the reviews and saying "Yes, that is it exactly!" The rev...more
Juliette
I love reading about perfume, and I love reading reviews, so I was very excited that my local public library had a copy of this book. I was surprised to read that this book gave my favorite perfumes (Stella by Stella McCartney,Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermes, L by Lolita Lempicka, and Angel Violet by Thierry Mugler) each a 3 star rating, which equals "adequate". I think each of my favorite perfumes are really lovely scents, so it makes me very curious and excited to seek out some of the perfumes...more
Jennifer
I rarely enjoy a book as much as I enjoyed this one. A collection of perfume reviews by Turin and his co-writer Sanchez, the appeal of the book lies in their use of vivid, fascinating language and metaphors to capture the mostly ineffable experience of scent. With perfumes they love the effect is rapturous and affectionate (White Linen is described as "a canonical expression of the American idea of sex appeal: squeaky clean, healthy, depilated and exfoliated, well rested and ready for the day. ....more
Rebecca
An extract from this review handily sums up Turin's approach to scent:

"Vibration theory lay dormant for the past three decades largely because it lacks a plausible biological mechanism for converting intramolecular vibrations into neuronal activation. Recently, however, it was resuscitated by a physiologist and perfume critic named Luca Turin. While implausible, Turin’s proposal is certainly a delightful potpourri of creativity, conjecture, extrapolation, and isolated observations. And it’s braz...more
Julia
My feelings on perfumes can be summed up as follows: I don't want to smell like perfume. Unfortunately, perfume critics and fanatics seem to give top props to perfumes that are rare creations of the art that smell exactly like perfume, so much so that the ones that have strong, odd scents (like cigarette smoke, hot rubber, old banana--the use of which tends to get the appellation of "interesting," pleasant/ordinary being apparently the kiss of death to experts) get the best reviews. I can unders...more
Al
I checked this out after seeing some people discussing it online. Needless to say, reading perfume reviews wasn't nearly as interesting as I'd been led to believe. I didn't "finish" it, but I read all of the intro material, after which follows like 300 pages of perfume reviews, arranged in alphabetical order. I read through the A's (which itself was about 50 pages) and a bit into the B's, so enough I think to get the general idea. The world of perfumery enthusiasts fits somewhere between those o...more
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If you life perfume books... 3 25 Oct 20, 2008 12:35PM  
  • The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York
  • The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume
  • Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume
  • Ugly Beauty: Helena Rubinstein, L'Oreal, and the Blemished History of Looking Good
  • Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights
  • The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957
  • Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride
  • The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris
  • The Perfume Lover: A Personal History of Scent
  • The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men
  • Style A to Zoe: The Art of Fashion, Beauty, & Everything Glamour
  • Backwards in High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female
  • The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell
  • The Little Dictionary of Fashion: A Guide to Dress Sense for Every Woman
  • Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The complete guide to the use of aromatic oils in aromatherapy, herbalism, health and well-being.
  • The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever
  • Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual: For Everyone from Beginner to Pro
  • A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer
Luca Turin is a biophysicist with a long-standing interest in the sense of smell, the art of perfume, and the fragrance industry.
More about Luca Turin...
The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell The Little Book of Perfumes: The Hundred Classics The Little Book of Perfumes: The 100 classics Carrosserie Touring

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“The question that women casually shopping for perfume ask more than any other is this: "What scent drives men wild?" After years of intense research, we know the definitive answer. It is bacon. Now, on to the far more interesting subject of perfume.” 21 likes
“But it's all a matter of taste, you say. It's true that among the perfumes reckoned good or great, there are some that will move you more than others, and some that will leave you entirely cold or even sickened, because either they won't say what you're longing to hear or they say what you never want to hear again. All the same, when considering perfume as an art, it's possible to appreciate when something is done exceptionally well.

If you've tried several perfumes, you know things can go wrong. Many compositions smell great in the first few minutes, then fade rapidly to a murmur or an unpleasant twang you can never quite wash off. Some seem to attack with what feels like an icepick in the eye. Others smell nice for an hour in the middle but boring at start and finish. Some veer uncomfortably sweet, and some fall to pieces, with various parts hanging there in the air but not really cooperating in any useful way. Some never get around to being much of anything at all. The way you can love a person for one quality despite myriad faults, you can sometimes love a perfume for one particular moment or effect, even if the rest is trash. Yet in the thousands of perfumes that exist, some express their ideas seamlessly and eloquently from top to bottom and give a beautiful view from any angle. A rare subset of them always seem to have something new and interesting to say, even if you encounter them daily. Those are the greats. By these criteria, one can certainly admire a perfume without necessarily loving it. Love, of course, is personal (but best when deserved).”
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