'I've long wished perfumery to be taken seriously as an art, and for scent critics to be as fierce as opera critics, and for the wearers of certain "fragrances" to be hissed in public, while others are cheered. This year has brought Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, which I breathed in, rather than read, in one delighted gulp.' Hilary Mantel, Guardian
Perfumes: The Guide is the culmination of Turin's lifelong obsession and rare scientific flair and Sanchez's stylish and devoted blogging about every scent that she's ever loved and loathed. Together they make a fine and utterly persuasive argument for the unrecognised craft of perfume-making. Perfume writing has certainly never been this honest, compelling or downright entertaining.
Less a guide in the sense of helping people choose the perfect fragrance than a wide-ranging, critical review of some 1,200 perfumes, both famous and obscure, this comprehensive book is unfailingly entertaining. A collaboration between Turin, a well-known olfactory scientist, and Sanchez, a perfume collector and critic, the book brings their exquisite connoisseurship to life in a contagious manner. Their passion for a few scents and their outrage at the others' failings make for entry after entry of hilarious, catty comments interspersed with occasional erudite, eloquent disquisitions. French perfumery Guerlain is subject to both: Jicky is "an object lesson in perfumery... a towering masterpiece," while Aqua Allegoria Pivoine Magnifica is "like chewing tin foil while staring at a welding arc." Other startlingly evocative metaphors abound, especially those comparing perfumes to people, whether someone real (Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton) or a general type (socialites, someone ill with bronchitis). This will be a must-have for anyone who already loves perfumes, though many of the reviews will cause violent disagreement, and those who aren't utterly perfume-obsessed will still appreciate the opening essays on olfactory science, the history of perfume, general types of fragrances and how to choose perfumes.