Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perfumes: The Guide, A Reflection and A Drawing

In 2008, when  began my journey into Perfumania, a little book came out called Perfumes: The Guide. Like so many young perfumistas with no idea where to start, I took the book like a bible, letting it lead me in my quest through the perfume wilds. I was so crazy about the book, I actually ended up with two copies. I carefully read reviews, getting samples of the scents considered the best by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. I put little coded notes to myself in the margins. Check marks for things I’d tried. Check pluses for scents I really loved and might want to own. Check minuses for scents I didn’t enjoy. After about three weeks, I felt like a huge failure. Luca and Tania loved scents I hated and hated scents I loved. I felt like I had the worst scent taste in the world.

So I talked to my perfume mentor, Angela, who shook her head sadly at me. Then she told me all the things you tell someone new to perfume: personal taste has a tremendous amount to do with taste; price point has nothing to do with quality; the more you smell the better your nose gets; like what you like and to hell with everyone else – you’re the one who has to wear it.

So I did what she told me. I put the book on my book shelf and let my perfumey wanderings take me wherever it went, like dandelion seeds in the wind. Now, three years have passed. I have tried many, many scents. Some wonderful. Some terrible. Some completely unmemorable.

This morning, I got out my copy of Perfumes: The Guide down from its shelf. I went through, page by page, marking off the scents I’ve tried since that May so long ago. As I did, I noticed several things about their approach I didn’t notice a perfume newb, and also several things about my own exploration that are worth noting:
  • I’m shocked by their complete and utter confidence that what they are smelling is what everyone else will smell. I find that to be rarely true. Some similarity, sure, but never this emphatic certainty.
  • I still haven’t tried enough Chanels and Serge Lutens.
  • There are really not enough independent perfumers in this book.
  • When I first started out, I strongly avoided any complex scents I couldn’t immediately peg as something familiar. I loved roses and vanillas. I hated things like chypres, vetivers, and florientals. Now I tend toward more complex scents.
  • It’s really pleasing not to be able to flip more than one or two pages without marking off scents I’d tried.
  • I find Luca Turin’s desire to insult perfumers far less entertaining or charming now that I know how hard it is too make perfume, especially good perfume.
All that said, I think the book is actually more useful to me now than it was when I thought I needed it. I no longer feel limited by the opinions given, and I find the descriptions somewhat useful in finding scents of certain notes or styles I’d like to try. So to that end, I’m holding a drawing for my still pristine and completely unused extra copy of the book.

Anyone who wants a copy of the original hardback edition of Perfumes: The Guide, despite its flaws, and accepting of the various, but limited, ways it can guide you, post here by Friday, July 1, 2011, 12:00 AM PST. 

I’d love to see it go to a good home, where someone else can use it to assist you in all your perfumey wanderings.


Doc Elly said...

Diana, I have never read the Turin & Sanchez guide, and am not sure I want to. My journey through perfumeland has been a completely self-guided tour, starting many years ago and meandering wherever it went as I formed my own opinions which, by the way, are constantly changing as I try new things and my tastes shift.

I have no issue with reviewers expressing strong opinions, as long as they are not presented as dogma. You are correct that perfume perception is highly personal and idiosyncratic, so one person's holy grail may be another person's scrubber.

I guess I will sign up for the drawing and let chance decide whether I should now fill a gap in my education by reading T&S.

flavourfanatic said...

Hi! 5 minutes ago I was looking at that book at Amazon, thinking about buying a copy. Then I went on reading perfume blogs, clicking on a link to your blog totally at random from a "Midsummers Dream" post over at Ines blog (all I am - a redhead, and I found this draw! So weird. I'd very much like to be included in the draw!

Maureen said...

I am new to the perfume blogs. I would love to have the use as a guide, not a bible. I have tried some Chanel, Lancome, Estee Lauder, Dior...have only sampled a few independent perfumers. Would love to know what the authors think of my favorites.
Thank you for the draw.

Undina said...

I have this book so no need entering me into the draw - I just wanted to say Hi :)

Diana said...

Awww, thanks, Undina!

Tamara*J said...

Hi Diana~long time reader/lurker but have never posted-although I have felt were talking the same language many times! ;) I would love a chance to own this- any $ I end up having goes to perfume not perfume books so I wish to have a chance to read it. Thanks!