Book Review: The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr

A fast, indulgent listen, packed with steaming concrete nouns and adjectives that you normally don’t find printed next to each other in a line, The Perfect Scent also contains a healthy dose of celebrity gossip.  After listening to Chandler Burr, former perfume critic for the New York Times, and curator of the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design, write about smells and the decisions involved in putting together two big-name commercial perfumes, you feel full – like you’ve consumed a huge olfactory meal, flipped through a bunch of women’s fashion magazines, and rubbed your forearm across every adhesive perfume advertisement while you were at it.

I was listening to most of this while printing some etchings, and as it progressed, the entire studio seemed to become more and more saturated – with not just smell, but color, and texture, as well.  It will remind you to notice the everyday materials of life, and at the same time, replenish your stock of oddball scientific facts that can be excellent conversation-starters.  For example, if you didn’t already know what it was, just look up ambergris

The only thing I regretted while listening, was not being able to actually smell the molecules he was describing – especially the two perfumes that the story followed from concept to completion.  So, for sharing this dessert-like read with others, I would recommend The Perfect Scent boxed set (which you can make yourself with an empty box, some elastic, and a trip to The Perfumed Court online, where you will find sample sets of perfume in 1 mL vials with titles like, “Fig: A Beginners Guide of 7 sample fragrances).  The story features Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely, and Un Jardin Sur le Nil by Hermès, but the site also sells sample packs divided by the “nose” behind the manufacturers’ fragrances, in which case, you would want the Jean Claude Ellena sampler (the nose behind Hermès).  This would be an excellent book to read while camping out on industrial carpet next to a duty-free shop during a six-hour layover in an international airport.  Or if you’re at home, you might just want to take a field trip to Sephora…


  1. Cathy Heck September 27, 2011

    If only my computer had smell-a-vision!

  2. Muv September 28, 2011


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