Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Perfect Scent

The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr

As the book's subtitle suggests, The Perfect Scent is the story of "a year inside the perfume industry in Paris and New York". Author Chandler Burr is the scent critic for The New York Times (a scent critic! I'd never heard of such a thing, but of course it makes sense that there are people whose job it is to critique perfume).

In The Perfect Scent, Burr shows readers the perfume industry from the inside. In it, he chronicles the development of two very distinct perfumes--in two different environments--over the course of the year. The first, is Herm├ęs' Un Jardin sur le Nil (I'm so intrigued by this one - I need to get myself to a high-end department store so I can smell it for myself), the second, Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely (which is on the scented bookmark that accompanied my copy of the book).

Honestly I wasn't sure whether I'd like this book. These types of industry profiles can be fascinating or boring. While The Perfect Scent isn't a page turner, it is a very interesting read. Though the narrative is occasionally too personal and his technical explanations are sometimes too detailed, Burr is a very good writer. He knows his subject, he's opinionated (I love his descriptions of "bad" perfumes - actually I like his perfume descriptions in general), and he's passionate about educating consumers.

The Perfect Scent made me want to go smell out a perfume for myself. It confirmed some of my preconceptions about the industry, and dismantled others. Most importantly it intrigued me. It made me think about perfume, which is not something I normally do, and it helped me to understand what's behind a good scent.

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