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Perfumes: The A-z Guide

by Luca Turin, Tania Sanchez
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • Publishing date: 27/10/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780143115014
  • ISBN: 0143115014


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 experience to review more than twelve hundred fragrances, separating the divine from the good from the monumentally awful. Through witty, irreverent, and illuminating prose, the reviews in Perfumes not only provide consumers with an essential guide to shopping for fragrance, but also make for a unique reading experience.

Perfumes features introductions to women's and men's fragrances and an informative "frequently asked questions" section including:
• What is the difference between eau de toilette and perfume?
• How long can I keep perfume before it goes bad?
• What's better: splash bottles or spray atomizers?
• What are perfumes made of?
• Should I change my fragrance each season?

Perfumes: The Guide is an authoritative, one-of-a-kind book that will do for fragrance what Robert Parker's books have done for wine. Beautifully designed and elegantly illustrated, this book will be the perfect gift for collectors and anyone who's ever had an interest in the fascinating subject of perfume.

Picking a Perfect Perfume

For Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez tested nearly 1,500 fragrances--some glorious, some foul. Here they offer some humble advice on finding something worth loving among the stinkers.

1. Smell top to bottom
Perfumes usually unfold in three (often very different) stages: the sparkling first few minutes are the fragrance's top note, followed by its true personality, known as the heart note, and ending with the base note, aka the drydown, hours later. Something you love at the counter you may loathe by the parking lot. We recommend top-to-bottom tests on skin and on paper, since some scents that disappoint on the heat of skin may shine on your shirtsleeve.

2. Write it down
Bring a pen to write names on paper test strips, so you're not in anguish hours later, trying to recall which is the third scent from the left that transports you to Shangri-La. Keep a cheap, possibly extremely trashy paperback on hand, so you can store strips between pages to keep them separate.

3. Rest your nose
Noses tune out, which is why you can smell your friends' homes but not your own. Smell no more than five scents per day on paper strips and try on only the best one or two, to keep your nose reliable.

4. Check the radiance
To get a good sense of how the perfume will smell to other people as you walk past, try spraying a test strip and leaving it in the room while you step out for a bit. Come back fifteen minutes later and breathe in: that's the radiance.

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  • Fun, Funny - and Useful.... Check out the new edition!
    From Amazon

    My father, who wore Old Spice when I was a kid but doesn't own a single bottle of perfume, sat down and read through this for a full hour, just picking out the 1-star reviews for amusement... It's also fun to see what two 'professional' perfume critics think of YOUR favorites! You'll find top sellers with bad ratings (e.g. Bright Crystal -1 star) and outstanding ratings (e.g., Cool Water - 5-stars). There's a surprise on every page. If you have a teenager interested in perfume or science, a book like this could be a nice gift - it gives some real-world context to chemistry. I read "The Emperor of Scent", and it started my own perfume obsession. After reading "The Secret of Scent", and several perfume-themed blogs, I wanted to start a perfume collection. Of all the guides, when I saw Luca Turin co-authored this one, I chose it because I knew it would be informative. What I didn't expect is how laugh-out-loud funny many reviews would be! The authors smell each perfume (mens and womens fragrances are both technically perfumes) on a paper strip, and also on skin - several times - to provide a very thorough evaluation. The best thing about this book is that it gives just enough history and background to interest even the most casual reader, that will also help you figure out what you like about the perfumes you wear and help you find more to try. And I love that you find Old Spice, Vanilla Fields, Stetson, and other "dime-store" fragrances as well as historic 'greats' and 'artisan' scents... nothing is ignored. [NOTE: There is a new edition in paperback. If you're new to perfume, or just curious, buy this. If you like it, please seek out the new edition - with another 400 perfumes, and a new format and indices, it makes the jump to 5-stars. There is also a website, where a dedicated reader created a spreadsheet and indexed all the perfumes and ratings.]

  • Absolutely the best perfume guide
    From Amazon

    This is, in my opinion, the absolutely best perfume guide. Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez review perfumes in a manner unlike any other. Their descriptions make use of all the senses to describe what is would otherwide be solely a very personal olfactory experience. They confirm what I have always suspected: that some very popular perfumes are overrated and that the "nose" should be educated much as the palate for tasting fine wines. Makes for quite enjoyable reading.

  • Don't waste your time
    From Amazon

    What a smarmy and mean-spirited book . . . Very personal reviews and little substance. They went on and on about YSL 'Opium' being 'so over' and everybody in the universe is tired of it - really? Most women (of all ages, by the way) I know adore it. They also stated that Estee Lauder's 'White Linen' was a masterpiece . . . Read their so-called 'review' of Britney Spear's 'Curious' - then you judge. These authors (I use the term loosely) remind me of two gossipy junior high school girls - wannabes that are miserable with their lot.

  • advice on how to use this book
    From Amazon

    EXCELLENT book, biting wit, right-to-the-point 1-liners. True, not a complete list, possibly somewhat biased (read the review mentioning Beyond Paradise by Estee Lauder), but there is no substitute for it out there... Read Turin's and Sanchez' words as a rough guide to inform your neocortex, but filter as much as you can (or care, or should I say wear?) through your own ofactory experience. You should only wear what you like, not what any one guru says is worth its while (but be mindful that others need to stand it also). His star ratings are a good guide for what's what: hyped dross (*), flat/boring blah (**), good/wearable (***), excellent/exquisite (****), unique/the ultimate (***** MIND YOU: not necessarily wearable). For those among you who are unsure/confused/need help/etc: most of the stuff you might want to wear is marked *** or ****. Tread lightly among the ***** rated, always test your "candidate fragrance" on a paper strip AND your own skin before plunking down serious money. Go to Neiman Marcus' or Saks' or Nordstrom's fragrance counters and ask for a few spritzed strips. Let them dry, then seal them inside (separate!) ziploc bags before putting them in your pocket, then walk away. Sniff "them" strips half-a-day or a day later, to see if you want to test them on your skin. Then go back. It's worth the trouble, 'cause it's gonna save you from making some very expensive mistakes... Yes, the listing is incomplete, Turin's views are it's highly idiosyncratic and sometimes "wrong" (as his co-author TS says somewhere in the book), but always pithy and witty with a dry sarcastic edge, thus highly entertaining. (What better concisely worded characterization for Equipage by Hermès than scent of a "crumpled gentleman farmer"? And so on, and on, and on... I'm not sure, though, why he flames Santos by Cartier, though. It's just as subtle and close-to-skin in its dry-down as Equipage... Well, I quess he's totally not free from fads, his own words sy it: " a style that has aged badly... If you like this stuff, get Yatagan." Well, I do wear Yatagan, and it smells quite differently from Santos!) For the ofactorily impaired or those whose sensibilities are (rather childishly) offended: you can read the lists of top-middle-bottom notes for 90+% of the existing perfumes on the [...] site for example (or on many of the Internet sites that sell perfumes). You can also read the various perfume blogs ad nauseam, often written by self-appointed "scent gurus" (is "gurette" the feminine for "teacher" in Hindi?). At most, you will get only a vague idea on how the various perfumes smell and very likely become REALLY CONFUSED, if you spend enough (actually: too much) time reading those reviews. There is no better telling about the esthetic experience elicited by the various perfumes than Turin's brief descriptions. Sample some perfumes that you're not familiar with, then read Turin's description, to get your own book-to-sensory-experience mapping (or key on how to decipher his critiques). Mind you, practicing (synthetic) chemists use their shnozolas as their first-line rough-and-ready alarm system as well as analytical tool, so Turin really knows what he is talking about. That said, "de gustibus et colorem non est disputandum" and that which you like might not necessarily have his blessing or be to his liking, but that's OK. After all, you use a perfume for causing you, and hopefully those around you, pleasure. Which also means: beware of loud, "foghorn" scents, out of deference for other people's personal space, if for nothing else. If you don't like someone to step on your toes, why should someone else enjoy having their nose "stepped on" by your fragrance? If you are interested in what's popular, go to [...] for a bunch of user reviews. Although, mind you, this is a self-selected set and therefore biased sample, but if you rather have a popular vote (vox populis) than an informed professional opinion, that's as close as you can get, since the "silent majority" is just that, silent on the subject. (But not necessarily fragrance/stench free!)

  • An exercise in mastery of form and content.
    From Amazon

    "Perfumes: The A-Z Guide" is above all an education in writerly style. The form of the perfume review is one that the authors truly have down, blending personal anecdote and histories of perfumes and perfumiers, with their own analyses. Irrespective of whether or not you agree with them, you never feel that you are not in safe hands. I don't know very much about perfume, unlike other reviewers, but the distortions of nepotism seem sufficiently incidental that the book's signal-to-noise ration is still extraordinary. And I'm not sure that there is a great deal to be gained by complaining that you disagree with the guide's verdicts. The point of education is to hone your powers of discrimination, not to be told that all your received ideas are valid and can be retained intact.

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