The book starts with the Psychology of Smell and moves on to the History of Perfumery and Fragrance Icons. There is also a chapter on Fragrance Classification and Natural and Synthetic Fragrance Materials. Karen has worked at both ends of the spectrum – niche and mass market, and been involved with perfume and cosmetics since the 1980s. Her view on celebrity scents?
“Lady Gaga’s 2012 fragrance Fame reportedly sold six million bottles during the first week of its launch. The fragrance campaign had her creativity stamped all over it, but in my opinion the black juice, which was marketed to her young followers, smells to me like a Body Shop shower gel that has leaked into a bag of sticky candy – this just goes to show how personal the choice of fragrance is.”
Where this book is so useful is that it sets out the fragrance families: Citrus, Floral, Oriental, Chypre, Fougere, giving key descriptions of the categories. There then follows a basic, simple formula for making such a perfume up. It’s a great way to learn about the building blocks of perfumery, either for those who want to know how individual ingredients work in a perfume, or for anyone who would like to have a go at blending themselves and would like an easy way to start.
My only criticism would be that I wish the publishers had a gone for a larger and longer format, thus giving Karen some more space. She writes very well and I wonder what more she might have put in if she had been given the chance. The chapter on Natural and Synthetic materials is very good and breaks down smells into categories, Karen also gives the key aroma chemicals for each type of smell – which is handy since there are hundreds of them. If there had been more space she might have been able to develop this fascinating topic more fully, given a list of key ones to buy and perhaps even have incorporated them into recipes, which at present includes only naturals. My second point would be that the book, although well designed (in that ‘soft-focus ‘hobbyist’ kind of way), is clearly pitched to attract women, which is a great pity, since again, publishers obviously don’t read Basenotes and forget that men are just as interested in perfume. So, don’t be put off by the cover if you are a guy, the information contained therein is sound and is an essential addition to any perfume lover’s library. All in all, my favourite perfume book of the many released last year.
Perfume The Art and Craft of Fragrance by Karen Gilbert is published by Cico Books and is available on Amazon.
For further recipes for products that you can customise the smell of (did you know that patchouli works in a face cream and is actually very good for the skin?), Natural Beauty by Karen Gilbert, (Cico Books) is also a useful addition.