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.
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.