Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Perfect Scent

I just finished reading The Perfect Scent and passed it along to my husband who graciously had given me first crack at it. Author Chandler Burr follows the creation of 2 perfumes, Sur de Nil by Ellena at Hermes and Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker from the sourcing of the name behind them to the launch. Funny enough it wasn't the inside view into the creative process, the industry's sacred cows, basic materials background, business items covered in contracts or insight into industry structure that really got me going although all these were definitely thought provoking. It was the description of scents that sent me over the top.

For example, Ellena desribing his creative goals for a perfume he designed: "So for L'Eau d'Hiver I took my inspiration from Après l'Ondée's theme. Cloud. soft, comfortable, light, and very present, but without all this grosse étoffe that you have with the Guerlains, all this stuff. It took me forever to do it. The idea of the diaphonous."

Once you know what concept the perfumer was after, it totally changes the experience of smelling it.

This book also reorganized my idea of what a fine fragrance is now. Similar to many art forms over time, it has become a reductive definition. Create a fragrance that hits the target with the fewest number of ingredients at the molecular level. It's a war of precision now not a profusion of scent. Tis the curse and blessing of mastery, this more with less.

Also, while Turin in his book Perfumes: The Guide (I reviewed this in January) pastes Kelly Caleche as "disappointing", knowing that Ellena made it for Hermes and some of the backstory gives me new respect for the fragrance.

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