A unique travel memoir, The Scent Trail charts a woman’s journey as she explores the magic and history behind the ingredients of her own bespoke perfume.
When Celia Lyttelton visits a bespoke perfumer in London, she enters the heady and exotic world of scent. On a London backstreet she is transported to a world made up of thousands of oils, unguents and balms — all hidden away in an old Chinese medicine chest.
And so begins Celia’s remarkable quest to discover the origin, history and culture of the many ingredients that make up her unique custom-made perfume. It is a quest that will take her from Tuscany to Morocco, from Sri Lanka to Tibet, from the peasants and farmers growing their own crops and the traders who sell to the perfume houses, to the “noses” who create the scents and the marketing kings involved in this billion dollar industry.
As Celia explores the mythology, history and culture behind ingredients such as jasmine, nutmeg, musk and ambergris, she paints a vivid portrait of this mysterious, sensual world, conjuring up the people she has met and the places she has visited on her scent trail.
For globe-trotting British journalist Lyttelton, "scent evokes memories." Such memories from her childhood, when she traveled with her archeologist mother to distant countries, led her to embark on a quest to find scent origins around the world. Seeking her own "bespoke" perfume, she visits a London perfumer, introducing readers to the delicate art of composing a perfume, evoking, for instance, "a forest at dawn soaked in dew" or, more abstractly, a piece of music. With her own formula in hand, Lyttelton sets out to visit places where the ingredients are grown, hoping to meet the harvesters, encounter fragrant fumes and discover the secrets of perfume making. Lyttelton has a magical manner of blending words and sentences to summon up splendiferous odors amid her anecdotes, memories and historical research. Scented sentences permeate the pages as she takes the reader along on her "olfactory odyssey" across far-flung, labyrinthine landscapes, from the French Riviera and Morocco to Tuscany and Sri Lanka. Her enchanting escapades conclude with a glossary of terminology used by perfumers.