Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Reviews- Perfumes: The A-Z Guide & Cult Perfumes: The World's Most Exclusive Perfumeries

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, Turin, Luca and Tania Sanchez, New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-14-311501-4

Cult Perfumes: The World's Most Exclusive Perfumeries, Williams, Tessa, New York, NY: Merrell, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-8589-4577-4

Two books on perfume- Perfumes gives short reviews of hundreds of perfumes, while Cult Perfumes is a coffee table book full of pictures and the stories behind several perfumeries. I liked them both, but Perfumes: The A-Z Guide is probably more helpful to most people. Of course, Cult Perfumes is nicer to look at.

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide covers a wide variety of perfumes, many that you've probably heard of, and some you probably haven't. I enjoyed the writing styles of both Turin and Sanchez, and often found myself laughing at their reviews. The reviews of bad perfumes are usually funnier, though I'm not sure that would take the sting out of a one star review. The reviews are alphabetical by fragrance, with an index by star rating and brand in the back. After the name of the fragrance, they give the brand name, star rating (1-5), two word synopsis, and pricing (1-4 dollar signs). Price and stars don't always correlate- there are good cheap perfumes and bad expensive perfumes. They're a bit dismissive of all natural perfumes, though there are some good reviews of natural fragrances. Some brands have both 5 star perfumes and 1 star, though the reverse is definitely not true. While I read this cover to cover, I think it could be a nice book to just pick up every now and then and read a review for fun- even if you're not interested in perfumes.

Cult Perfumes: The World's Most Exclusive Perfumeries is probably best for those that truly love fragrance. It has pictures of bottles, advertisements, showrooms, and items of historical interest. It goes over the history and fragrances of 27 perfume houses, from the few that are centuries old to the relatively new. Prices put some of the fragrances out of reach for most people, including some that are $1000+ and bespoke perfumes that have waiting lists on top of exorbitant prices. The book doesn't go much into pricing, but there are some fragrances in here that do cost significantly less than $1000 (diptyque has some for less than $100). Some perfumeries strictly control distribution of their fragrances, making them hard to find. Serge Lutens has many available worldwide, but has a collection of fragrances that are only available in Paris, for example.While this is a lovely book, it wouldn't be a good choice for helping you find a new scent. In addition to the issues above, the lack of criticism in this book makes it hard to determine which of the exclusive scents are better than the others. If any sound intriguing to you, check out Perfumes: The A-Z Guide before going any great lengths to pursue the perfume. 

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