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Perfumes: The A-Z Guide

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  1,133 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
The first book of its kind: a definitive guide to the world of perfume Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez are experts in the world of scent. Turin, a renowned scientist, and Sanchez, a longtime perfume critic, have spent years sniffing the world's most elegant and beautiful--as well as some truly terrible--perfumes. In Perfumes: The Guide, they combine their talents and experien ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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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
Apr 18, 2008 Reese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 21, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  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
Lauren Colombrito
Oct 28, 2008 Lauren Colombrito rated it it was ok  ·  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
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
Feb 03, 2009 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
M.K.  Carroll
Oct 12, 2008 M.K. Carroll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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] " 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
Burgundy Rose
Aug 03, 2011 Burgundy Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2009 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Jul 23, 2012 Irene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, ahhh-perfume
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
Jan 16, 2009 Terri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terri by: Bellezza
Shelves: 2009, nonfiction
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
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
This is a good and enlightening read about the perfume industry. The first 50 pages have changed my opinion about scent and the way I look at it. They encourage people to like what they like and not fall prey to assumptions and advertising, or even their opinions. They inform you about how to test perfume and why you should be skeptical about industry pablum. Great stuff. I'll never look at perfume the same way again. In fact, some of the perfumes I own are too screechy. They're being tossed whe ...more
May 06, 2011 Kami rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Oct 31, 2010 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2014 paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Mar 23, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: style-culture
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.
Jan 02, 2016 Metalpig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, beauty
It's true, reading books about perfume is like dancing about architecture. Still, the snark here cannot be beat. I am also very envious of people who, unlike me, can detect all these scents. Even with lots of sampling I mostly get Flowers, Not-Flowers, and Cake. I am the ideal Bath and Bodyworks customer, but after reading this I feel less bad about that.
Apr 20, 2008 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Jun 09, 2008 GraceAnne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 08, 2017 Jena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I know everything about fragrances now.

2-stars: Some of the descriptions were creative and fun to read, but overall these authors are snobs.

Wear what you like, folks. (Spritz conservatively.)
Jul 23, 2017 Moi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non_fiction
Hilarious..I am an avid fragrance addict and I really did assume that this would be a pretentious or catty tome.
Not so.. although some fragrances are dismissed I imagine they rightly should be. Fragrance is an industry shrouded in bullshit and a lot of product really is dreck to anybody with a developed 'nose'.

I will continue to use fragrances that are not masterpieces because I like them and I will also seek out some 'recommended' 5 star rated fragrances because I am interested in them.

As a
Mar 05, 2017 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it first came out, but it wasn't my cup of tea because it's only opinions/reviews. Perfume is personal, tied to your memory, and you should wear it based on your own preferences and not because of what two married"experts" say. Buy whatever you want and wear it.
Rajka Rusan
Jul 18, 2017 Rajka Rusan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Funny, extremely informative, a book you can explore for very long time. For perfume lovers, or those who intend to became perfume experts. Besides, it should be mandatory reading for each ambitious shop assistant in the fragrances despartment.
Mar 21, 2017 Dane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glamour
Eh. I like their writing, and their criticisms, but I was able to shoot through this book in one evening, despite its size, reading only the entries of perfumes I have (that they cover - they do cover every type of perfume, but by no means every perfume within that type) and the ones I'm interested in.
Mar 19, 2017 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love perfume and love learning about it, too. There were so many things I picked up from this book, including a few new fragrances.
Apr 04, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2015 Hali rated it it was amazing
In high school I used to collect perfume in a very serious way. I rarely wore it, but I was really interested in scent. I would write dozens of reviews, spend hours in department stores, and scour antique stores for old versions of perfume with heliotrope and ambergris (crystalized whale vomit) and genuine musk extracted from animals that are endangered now that is now heinously illegal to harvest. The new versions include synthetic versions of these smells. I would spend hours comparing the two ...more
Nazrul Buang
Jul 16, 2016 Nazrul Buang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Just finished reading "Perfumes: The Guide" (2008) by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. Considered to be one of the must-reads for perfume enthusiasts, it's only a matter of time before I pick this book up to read what Mr. Turin has to contribute to the perfume world.

"Perfumes: The Guide" basically works like your quintessential 101 book for understanding perfumes. Containing all the fundamentals one needs to know in order to fully appreciate perfumes, such as brief history, the big names in perfume
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If you life perfume books... 3 29 Oct 20, 2008 12:35PM  
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  • Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume
  • Fashion: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume
  • Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume
  • Style on a Shoestring: Develop Your Cents of Style and Look Like a Million without Spending a Fortune
  • Wear This, Toss That!: Hundreds of Fashion and Beauty Swaps That Save Your Looks, Save Your Budget, and Save You Time
  • Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent
  • Gothic: Dark Glamour
  • Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights
  • In Fashion: From Runway to Retail, Everything You Need to Know to Break Into the Fashion Industry
  • Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style
  • What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life
  • A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer
  • The Scent Trail: A Journey of the Senses
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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...

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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.” 27 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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