At this time of year there is nothing nicer than settling down with a good book, and for lovers of fragrance what could be better than a perfume-focused read? We’ve collected together some of the nicest, most interesting books to help you find your next scented companion.
The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choosing Your Next Scent
This book is a brand new launch. Written by Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven, The Perfume Companion has arrived just in time to make its way into many a Christmas stocking. Designed to help you find your next scent, this is the perfect book to buy someone who wants to branch out from what they wear currently, someone who is getting into fragrance and wants to explore, or for someone who is curious about the breadth of the fragrance market.
The tone of the book throughout is friendly, rather than snobby, and it acts rather like a perfume-savvy best mate, guiding you around navigating picking a new signature scent. Occasionally, review guides have been known to stray into mean and cutting, but that’s not the case here with the book omitting (rather than eviscerating) any scents which don’t pass muster. This makes it cheerful and upbeat in tone.
With informative but easily digestible sections such as the history of perfume, where and when to apply, what’s in your perfume and even a section on longevity, this book is everything you need to get up to speed on how to navigate and explore the market.
The fragrance reviews themselves in the book are split into categories such as floral, citrus, woods and leather but then broken down further. So for example, Citrus has a whole category, but there are individual sections for lime, grapefruit and classic citrus colognes. This makes it easy to explore around a theme that you know you like. If you enjoy Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel, you will find this fragrance listed in the company of Eau de Merveilles by Hermes, Hypnotic Poison by Dior and Samsara by Guerlian. Immediately, from one jumping off point, you have several alternatives to explore.
For each scent listed you will find the perfumer (so you can explore the back catalogue of the people who have composed your favourite scents), a tag line which allows you to get a quick flavour and sense of if you wish to delve further, and a price guide from the cheap and cheerful single pound sign, to the extravagant and expensive ££££. The fragrances are even illustrated beautifully, making this an all round winner of a publication.
If you have someone in your life who likes scent then this is the ideal gift for them. The Perfume Companion is available worldwide, but here’s a link to buy it on Hive.co.uk or you can also purchase it directly from 4160 Tuesdays where at the moment it comes with samples of scent too.
Nez: The Olfactory Magazine
Nez is the incredibly stylish magazine about olfaction which is published twice a year in both French and English. A little more high brow than the friendlier tomes out there, Nez contains a wealth of information wrapped up in a very modern looking package.
Each edition of Nez is based around a theme, and past themes have includes topics like Mind and Body, Natural and Synthetic, The Sex of Scent and Addictive Substances. More than just about perfumes themselves, Nez looks at all different aspects of olfaction in an interesting and engaging way.
Alongside the bi-annual magazine, Nez also offers a range of books which take a deep dive into specific perfumery ingredients, their history and uses. Titles for these books include Blackcurrant Bud, Rose, Geranium and Jasmine. If you have a favourite ingredient or indeed are particularly interested in finding out about a particular aspect of scent then these are an excellent place to start. In these books we take a deep dive into an ingredient and discover everything from when the element was first used in perfumery, how it is grown, what chemicals form its make-up, along with perspectives from perfumers who use the ingredient in their compositions. You’ll be both beguiled and surprised about how much there is to know about the humble blackcurrant bud or geranium.
Throughout, the books are illustrated with gorgeous photography and illustrations to break up the text in an attractive way. They’re so easy on the eye and look as good on a coffee table as they do when they’re open and being read.
Nez books and magazine are available via their website, although some back issues of their magazine have now sold out and are unavailable.
Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent
Perfume by Neil Chapman is another book designed to guide you through the swaithes of scent on offer in an increasingly crowded market and again this takes the form of mini-reviews of notable fragrances. Originally starting out as a blogger, Neil Chapman went on to collect his reviews together in book form, as an aid to anyone wanting to dip their toes into the fragrance market.
Perfume splits up fragrances into broad categories like Citrus, Flowers, The Classics and Eros, before getting more granular and going down specific florals like lily, lavender and tuberose, or vanilla, tea or coffee. These are meant to assist with finding your way around and through and work well as an inspiration and starting point for someone looking to add to their collection, or indeed to build a varied collection across perfume families.
For each entry in this – very full – volume you’ll find a mini-review, the year of release and sometimes similar entries from a brand are grouped together. The entries are embellished with a simple illustration.
The writing style in Perfume is clear and straightforward, with enough lyrical polish to make it an engaging and delightful read but without it becoming snobby and impenetrable. This isn’t the sort of book which many will read from cover to cover, but it’s great for dipping into when you want to explore on a theme or find something similar to a particular love.
The Essence – Discovering the World of Scent, Perfume and Fragrance
The style of this book is more of a coffee table book than one that you will sit and read cover to cover in one sitting – but actually that is exactly what you will want to do with it. Almost in the style of a collection of essays, The Essence is easy to dip in and out of and consume in bite-sized chunks, but at the same time it’s compelling, so when you have finished one section you will struggle to not start on the next. Before you know it, you’ll find you’ve rattled through half the publication which is punctuated throughout with beautiful photography and illustrations.
The book is split into sections with broad titles such as Smell and Scent, and People and Products. Within each of these sections we find a collection of essays, features and spotlights delving deeper and more specifically into different aspects. For example in the Practice and Process section we find features on Exotic Smells, From Lab to Shop and From Nature to Bottle, as well as spotlights on particular people or brands – in this section it’s Mandy Aftel and Perfumer H.
The Essence isn’t a guide to choosing a scent yourself, but it will give you different ideas on how to approach fragrance, different perfumers and brands you might want to hunt out and examinations of different fragrance families to inspire. This is more a book about what goes into making a fragrance, from growing a plant right through to composition, rather than a review book and as such it is probably one to reserve buying for those true scent aficionados who are already halfway down the rabbit hole of scent.
Throughout the book, The Essence is illustrated with a mixture of beautiful full colour photography and attractive illustrations – so if you do decide to display it on your coffee table, your guests will doubtless find it entrancing too.
The Essence is available direct from publisher, Gestalten, via their website.
The Scented Letter
Easy to pick up, The Scented Letter is the fragrance magazine from The Perfume Society. In this easily digestible format you’ll find neat little articles cheek-by-jowl with pretty images and illustrations. It’s the sort of publication that if you picked it up in the dentist’s office, you may well end up missing them calling your name.
Each edition of The Scented Letter has a loose theme to tie it all together, and you’ll find articles, interviews, musings and new (and not so new) releases listed.
The Scented Letter is available from The Perfume Society’s website.
Olfaction: A Journey
Olfaction: A Journey is a publication celebrating a decade of the IFRA UK Fragrance Forum. The publication is a lovely collection of essays and musings on a wide variety of fragrance related topics, broken into sections covering Psychology, Arts and Culture, Technology and Innovation, and Health and Wellbeing. There are some fascinating insights contained therein in essays like Buzz, Buzz, Sniff: The Olfactory Life of Insects by Professor Thomas Nowotny, and Smell and the City: Olfaction and Urban Formations by Dr Alex Rhys-Taylor.
As you might expect, this is an accessible publication, but one which does tend towards the slightly more high-brow in tone. Nevertheless, the sections are short and easy to dip in and out of which makes it friendlier and most people will find it has something to engage.
Olfaction: A Journey is available from the IFRA UK website.
The other stuff
We were gifted copies of The Perfume Companion by Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven, The Scented Letter and Perfume by Neil Chapman. We won the Nez books in a competition and everything else was purchased.