Cult Perfumes: The World’s Most Exclusive Perfumeries is a new book devoted to small, artisanal perfumeries, or for the lack of a better term, niche. It includes interviews with the perfumers and creators, perfume descriptions and the history of various lines. The author Tessa Williams includes 25 different brands, from Amouage to Serge Lutens. There are even mentions of small lines like Byredo, Tauer Perfumes, and Nasomatto. It also contains a handy glossary of fragrance terms and a list of perfume museums around the world. Did you know that Japan has three such establishments?
There are plenty of photos, and at 192 pages Cult Perfumes is a cross between a coffee table book (albeit, in a small format) and a reference set. The book isn’t overly technical, and as such, it would be best for someone fairly new to perfume or curious to learn more about small, lesser known brands. Advanced perfume lovers might find the information too light.
My main qualm with Cult Perfumes is the lack of proper identification of the perfumers. For instance, ‘perfumer’ is often conflated with the creative director, which can be confusing. For instance, Williams calls Serge Lutens the creator of Shiseido Féminité du Bois. The perfume was authored by Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon under the creative direction of Lutens, but neither Sheldrake nor Bourdon are mentioned in the Féminité du Bois discussion. Or in the chapter on Ormonde Jayne, Linda Pilkington is introduced as the perfumer behind the entire Ormonde Jayne line, while Geza Schoen, who in fact created them (and this is no secret), is surprisingly omitted. For a book aiming to be a guide to niche, where perfumers are usually given the spotlight, it’s an oversight.
Since the book was originally published in the UK, there is a strong emphasis on British perfume houses. This angle is interesting, because the emergence of new British perfume brands and the revival of classical houses like Grossmith and Atkinson has been a notable recent phenomenon. Although the fragrance market is still dominated by French and American brands, the British perfume scene has a new energy and vibrancy which is reflected in Cult Perfumes. At the same time, I hope that future editions will feature a wide range of brands, since 25 is just the tip of the niche iceberg.
Cult Perfumes is now available at amazon.com, $31.95
Sample copy provided by Merrell Publishing