Review - The Little Book of Perfumes: The Hundred Classics


03rd December, 2011

Love them or hate them, the King and Queen of perfume-related snark are back with another instalment in their guides to perfume. This time Turin and Sanchez have sifted out the bad and the ugly and have focused on creating a compilation of their top 100 perfumes of all time.

Well, saying this is a compilation of their top 100 perfumes is slightly misleading, as Tania Sanchez tells us in the forward, these aren’t the greatest classics of all time, they are in fact “those that struck us as far above their peers in quality, inventiveness, or straightforward beauty”. The Little Book of Perfumes turns out to be 96 of the top rated fragrances from Perfumes The A-Z Guide and for that reason you can expect the usual witty, honest and well-informed perfume evaluation that we have come to know and love (or hate).

Like Perfumes The A-Z Guide, it is worth remembering with The Little Book of Perfumes, that perfume is entirely subjective and that those Turin and Sanchez consider to be classics may not rate so highly in your opinion. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash as they say.

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The 96 top rated fragrances are also joined by four long-gone, historically important fragrances (namely Coty’s Emeraude, Chypre and L’Origan and Jacques Fath’s Iris Gris), that are hidden within the bowels of The Osmothèque in Versailles. The addition of these four, long-gone classics offers a fascinating insight into a perfumed past and as always Luca Turin makes the perfume come alive on the page, but you just can’t help feeling a little bit teased - these are perfumes that you and I are unlikely to ever smell, and reading about them you almost feel a sense of loss, the loss of something that you never really had.

In addition to the material on The Osmothèque, Turin and Sanchez have sought to revisit and retest some of the perfumes previously reviewed. This inevitably brings up the subject of reformulations, partly due to restrictions from IFRA (International Fragrance Association) and the tightening purse strings of perfume houses. Some perfumes don’t live up to their past glory and these changes are lamented. The authors' dismay with reformulations is felt very strongly throughout the book, particularly in their revisited review of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue. But, being the fair souls that they are, Turin and Sanchez are also happy to celebrate instances where a perfume’s formula has been improved.

The Little Book of Perfume is a good read, but it is definitely light on new material and fans of the Perfumes the A-Z Guide may find that there isn’t enough original text to warrant its little place on the bookshelf. This guide seems more suited to those that are new to perfume and perhaps need a starting point or something to kick-start their perfume obsession, and for that reason I think it would make an excellent gift for any budding perfume lover.

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About the author: Thomas Dunckley

Thomas Dunckley is a self-proclaimed perfume nerd and is the writer of perfume blog thecandyperfumeboy.com

Website: http://thecandyperfumeboy.com/

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Comments

    • eov8b | 4th December 2011 01:14

      To say that it's light on new material is an ENORMOUS understatement - there are - maybe - 12 updates. The book is the same as their previous effort - there are no new reviews, just updates. A copy-paste effort, very disappointing

    • Harvest Moon | 4th December 2011 19:16

      The thing that I do like is that it's portable.

    • redrose | 4th December 2011 20:37

      Yes, like eov8b, I was disappointed with the dearth of new material in this book. I appreciated TS's essay on reformulations, and the reassessment of some of these in the book, especially LHB. But I wouldn't have bought it if I'd realized how slight it was.

      Still, they are great writers, and the copy is as lively as ever (in fact, exactly the same as in The Guide for the most part!) - I just wish they'd write a completely new Guide for 2012, one which takes into account all the many reformulations which have, sad to say, ruined so many once great perfumes. And considered some of the large number of frags which have been created since the original Guide was written.

    • Kaern | 5th December 2011 14:18

      Subjectivity goes out of the window with Luca as far as Calice Becker goes. They are tight -- hence the favourable review for Beyond Paradise for Men and anything she has a hand in.

      Kaern

    • luca turin | 5th December 2011 17:00

      Replaced by objectivity, I take it ?

    • Hieronymous | 6th December 2011 01:26

      il ne faut pas trop exagérer...

      (it was a type-o. ever said "hot" when you meant "cold"? guess not)

      great review, by the way.

    • Dernier_Cri | 6th December 2011 02:32

      Yes, obviously Kaern wrote "subjectivity" when he or she meant "objectivity" by mistake.

      It doesn't really make her point any less valid. And I'm not weighing in here as to whether her point IS valid. I don't know. But.......you really don't have to be foaming at the mouth about anyone or anything being "Busted and slamdunked".

      But I am glad you get so much joy out of little things.

    • Pamplemousse | 6th December 2011 10:58

      To be honest, I have no idea whether Kaern's comment was valid or not.

      It just made me smile, that's all.

      Nice of you to stick up for another BN'er, but let's not have a sense of humour failure about it..

    • Kaern | 6th December 2011 15:15

      Correct, Luca (and others) -- I'll take that hit -- my emotions ruined my English, which is ironic. Let's start again--you are not objective when it comes to fragrances by Calice Becker and several other perfumers, which in my view, lays waste to the book's intentions and all other subsequent reviews. How can we be sure you are reviewing the fragrance objectively and not just cosying up to the perfumer? I'm still glad the original book was written though and refer to it often, even though I am still completely baffled by your review of the patently bad Beyond Paradise for Men. How do you justify that? Er - objectively.

      Kaern

    • luca turin | 6th December 2011 16:01

      That's easily answered: every single review in the guide is subjective. As for cosying up, I've made it clear which perfumers are personal friends, so feel free to divide and subtract as you wish.

    • Kaern | 6th December 2011 16:24

      Thanks for your honesty --a trait then sadly missing in your book. What's the point of reviewing a fragrance created by one of your friends if you are not going to be sincere about it? How does that help anyone? We all make mistakes sometimes (as I've learnt).

    • be-bop | 6th December 2011 16:33

      Luca does remind me of Jeremy Clarkson on Top-Gear....Whether I agree with either is not the point...I find them both very entertaining, and find myself escapeing the routine for a while and enjoying a pleasant detour to a fun and enjoyable place...

      And in the end I have learn quite a bit from LT & TS by hearing opinions; doesn't matter if favorable or not; that make me aware of fragrances that I may wish to try that I wouldn't have been aware of otherwise...And they are fun...and I believe sincere....

    • luca turin | 6th December 2011 16:46

      You misunderstand: I was [as was Tania] sincere both about the fragrance and the friendship.

    • Kaern | 6th December 2011 17:00

      So you really and truly believe that BP for Men is worth 5 stars? That just isn't possible -- however you carve it up.

    • andylama | 6th December 2011 17:22

      Oh, come now. You've been on Basenotes long enough to realize that ANY opinion about ANY fragrance is possible, regardless of how 'wrong' or bewildering it seems to you or me. Opinions are just that, even if they come from a professional who can identify any aromachemical blindfolded.

      Every time I come here, I read glowing praise for expensive perfumes that I have sampled myself, and find to smell like chicken soup, stale wine...or worse.

      Cut Mr. Turin some slack. His only crime was publishing a book before any know-it-all here did (not that they ever would have; let's face it). Turin is a superior writer of perfume criticism; actually more objective and well-informed than most reviewers in the Basenotes forums (though the BN reviewers are still worthwhile reading...though usually less clever)

      As for Beyond Paradise For Men, it may have artistic merit as a composition, but it is simply not my style...like so many others. At least it doesn't smell like the dishwasher in an Indian restaurant. Chacun à son goût.

    • Kaern | 6th December 2011 17:32

      That's my whole point though -- it has no artistic merit -- it is aesthetically defunct and is technically inept. But it gets 5 stars -- how can that be? I'm sure Mr Turin has heard worse than this, especially over his review of Secretions Magnifique, which shows his appreciation of post-modernism at least.

    • Pamplemousse | 6th December 2011 17:36

      What he said.

      My reviews are my opinion, and cannot therefore be "wrong" or "shit".

      And as to the number of them? I wasn't aware it was a contest.

      You're making a fool of yourself on a public forum. Stop now.

    • be-bop | 6th December 2011 18:24

      Sounds like it would make a nice "Stocking Stuffer"...

    • silversurfer | 6th December 2011 18:48

      I for one, appreciate your creative sense of humor, & your books. Come on guys, chill out. It will be ok...

    • pluran | 6th December 2011 20:13

      Thanks for the review. It's a great book, a lot more substantial than first appearances might indicate.

      And for what it's worth, Beyond Paradise for Men is a structurally excellent composition that outperforms most other masculines in every area. Whether or not it's your thing can only be determined by you. Not to mention that its sister, Beyond Paradise, is one of the most exhilarating florals I've ever smelled on my girlfriend. I'm not into dihydromyrcenol so much anymore, but smelling BPMen is a trip. You get an evolving universe of texture and smell that actually inspires, which is unusual for a masculine. I think of the fragrance as a giant piece of kaleidoscopic velvety wood. A five star fragrance for sure, and one that I find considerably more interesting than another dihydromyrcenol heavy composition called Green Irish Tweed.

    • product | 7th December 2011 01:20

      I wonder if they've considered an iPhone App?... would be great to carry this around on my phone and would also allow for regular updates... just a thought

      Best,

      Joel

    • Papi Le Bon | 11th December 2011 08:38

      I admire LT & TS a lot. But to sell twice the same is classless.

    • Saintpaulia | 11th December 2011 17:55

      Hmmm...a variety of opinions.

      For me, it's a free (sort of) country. And if an author or authors want to publish a book that is like the Best 100 of a former title of theirs, fine. If you don't like the idea, don't buy it. I imagine that alot of the point of such a book is to reach those who may not have known about the older works. And like a poster said, it is smaller and more concise for taking with one to go "out in the field".

      Even though it is definitely "dated" I never miss an opportunity to "plug" a book I've enjoyed, Susan Irvine's The Perfume Guide. It's a "best of 200" and gives another author's slant on the "best of". It might be interesting to compare the Turin/Sanchez book, here in question, with Susan's listing.

      And lastly, I couldn't pass up the opportunity of possibly being able to directly communicate to Luca. So if he is still reading these things, 'Thank you Sir for turning me on to fragrances and giving me some very hearty laughs at a time when such are in very short supply'.

      Cheers and Season's Greetings to all,

      Saintpaulia

    • Papi Le Bon | 11th December 2011 20:48

      Thank you. I agree, in a sort of free country you can do a lot of things you want. The first of all to criticize.

      If your second book is 96 per cent a quote of your first book, call it "An Anthology of my first book". It would be nice because anthology means in its roots "flower gathering".

      If LT or TS comment this, I also will be very happy because they are uncompromised critics.

    • Papi Le Bon | 13th December 2011 05:50

      No comments?

      Maybe I was to negative to vex someone. I will change my last comment for a positive one: It is good to write a second book with the same (or almost the same) content of your first one, in order to let the readers of the second one, be familiar with the content of the first. That is, of course, a great idea. The problem in this case is that the readers of the second book will miss the review of Love in White, which, for me, IMO, is the best (tightly close with the Missoni's) of the first book.

    • mr. reasonable | 16th December 2011 16:47

      Picked up a copy a couple of days ago - nice to see it prominently displayed here as well, I thought I'd have to dig around a bit. Just as The Guide opened a lot of new doors for people who are genuinely interested in fragrances (like me) I think this is a terrific launch pad for the mildly curious . . . I hope it does well.

      I am now placing a bet with myself as to whether the Basenotes Directory gets around to listing Demachy's wonderful Granville & Mathilde Laurent's cool L'Heure Fougueuse so all the above can review them here, or LT & TS get a new book out reviewing them first . . . not holding my breath, either way.

      Happy Christmas and all the best for 2012 :)

    • mr. reasonable | 22nd December 2011 09:15

      Okay I bought it and have read it and dipped back into it over the last couple of weeks and I have a new take on this.

      It was pretty clear from the outset that a 'Best Of' was definitely going to be a hit with the perfume industry as a whole - finally the great unwashed could be led to a bright little sales guide applauding the best of the best. New customers, more sales, everybody wins. In the run up to it's release it seemed this was going to be a feelgood kiss and make-up from LT & TS to the industry they defrocked and pointed fingers at so rudely a few years ago.

      Right?

      Wrong.

      I think this is probably the most subversive piece of 'popular' literature published on the perfume industry available.

      In a sense it's more obituary than sales tool. The relentless 'updates' taken in total with the naming and shaming serve as a testament to the credibility of these two authors IMO, for telling it like is. It's a well aimed and well-deserved slap in the face for the IFRA and I think that alone makes it essential reading for anyone who actually gives a damn . . . whoopee.