Books: 33 posts

Books for perfume lovers

Rare Perfumes by Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Férat : New Perfume Book

Rare Perfumes (Parfums Rares in its French edition) is a new book that takes a close look at the niche/artisanal fragrance movement. Written by Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Férat, it starts its journey in the 1980s and encompasses a wide range of lines, from L’Artisan Parfumeur and Annick Goutal to État libre d’Orange and Comme des Garçons. In the words of perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï, “Rare Perfumes underlines a major breakthrough for our profession: the arrival for more than 20 years of several brands having all the desire to create differently. This other perfumery shakes up a market dominated by big international groups and it is the best thing that could ever happen to the perfume industry!”


The book features 152 pages and more than 300 photos (take a look inside). The publication date is March 2014, but it’s currently available in both French and English at the Osmothèque website. Via press release

Price: 39 €
ISBN 13: 9782909953182
Diffusion Puf – Distribution : UD

Things That Makes One’s Heart Beat Faster

I would love to have shared a cup of tea with Sei Shonagon, a 11th century Japanese court lady and author of The Pillow Book. What a character she must have been! It is rare that a personage removed by so many centuries feels so modern, but I can just imagine her doling out choice comments and sharing some court gossip. Of course, I would be worried that this aesthete might find either my conversation too dull or my attire too plain, since her diary is evidence enough of her strong opinions.

cherry blossoms-350

Besides anecdotes about court life, The Pillow Book is full of poetic vignettes and observations. It’s a world where the first snowfall can be cause for celebration and where lovers send each other incense perfumed letters. Sei Shonagon’s rapier-sharp wit and appetite for life shine through her compilation of stories. That she is not all charm and sweet manners makes her even more fascinating.

The Pillow Book was written during a particularly trying period of Sei Shonagon’s life. Emperor Ichijo had recently taken on another consort, sidelining the writer’s patron, Empress Teishi, to a secondary role. Incidentally, the biggest rival to Sei Shonagon’s literary skill served the new Empress Shoshi. It was Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the first modern novel, The Tale of Genji. With the declining fortunes of Empress Teishi, Sei Shonagon’s future was likewise troubling, and she probably found solace in writing.

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New Book About Perfumer Laurent Bruyere

If you can read in French, I highly recommend the new book about perfumer Laurent Bruyère. Titled Laurent Bruyère : Formules Secrètes d’ un Parfumeur, it’s written by Soraya Bouvier Feder and features a preface by perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez. Bruyère’s story is as inspiring as it is tragic, since he passed away in 2008 at the age of 43.


In her book, Felder interviews Laurent’s close friends and colleagues, including Jean Paul Guerlain, Jean Michel Duriez, Daniel Harlant, Anne-Marie Saget, and Thierry Trotobas, and gives us a glimpse into his world. Bruyère worked for many years at International Flavors & Fragrances before leaving for Mane, and IFF’s perfumer Dominique Ropion was one of his mentors.

Bruyère was a self-taught perfumer with an incredible passion for older fragrances, especially Guerlain (he had a Mitsouko label tattooed on his arm). You only need to take a look at his portfolio to see the range of his talent: Cacharel Amor AmorThierry Mugler AlienCostume National Scent and Scent IntenseEscada Sexy Graffiti (easily one of the best from Escada), to name a few.  I hope this tribute to his art will be available in English too.

Available at 27-29.00 € (in French)

Perfume and Literature : Inspiration in a Bottle

The National Post ran an interesting article last week on perfume and literature. Perfumed prose: On finding fictional fragrance inspiration in a bottle reviews the recent crop of books where scents play an important role: Joanne Harris’s Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, Sarah Churchwell’s Careless People, Margot Berwin’s Scent of Darkness, and Kathleen Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector.


“The writer Colette was a perfume enthusiast, penning the preface of a promotional fragrance booklet for Lanvin in 1949. Then as now, perfume marketing and press releases often read like fictions — fragrant flights of fancy constructed to capture the imagination with a good story. But olfactory auras around characters and plot also recur in literature, as seductive and suggestive alchemy of words and smells — from Ovid and Proust to Faulkner and Zola. Scent conveyed in pen and ink is powerful even when it isn’t physically present. To read the rest, please click here.”

One of my favorite novels in which scents influence the plot is Tom Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume. It combines an intricate plot, humor and clever perfume references. Irresistible!

If you’ve read any of the novels mentioned in the article, how did you like them? Do you have any favorite works of fiction with a perfume twist?

Photography by ginnerobot, via Flickr, some rights reserved

Scented Mementos: The Story of the Porter and the Ladies of Baghdad

The Iraqi capital Baghdad is associated today with devastation and sectarian violence, and every time another story of this troubled city unfolds on the TV screen, perfume is the last thing I usually think about. And isn’t it frivolous and unnecessary anyway? But then I remember a scented memento given to me by an Iraqi friend. “In our culture, we give a fragrant flower to sweeten the pain of saying goodbye,” she said. We were in New York then, and there were neither scented roses nor jasmine, so instead she gave me a small bottle of orange blossom water. Every time I use it in my cakes or tea, I think of Muna.


The tradition of sharing scents–sprinkling guests with perfume or giving them small scented gifts as they depart–has ancient roots, and with few modifications, these practices continue today. Even as Iraq has been undergoing dramatic upheavals, some things remain the same and provide a thread of continuity which becomes even more essential when nothing else is certain. When Muna describes the fragrances made by her relatives, she doesn’t just describe the sweetness of jasmine or the medicinal sharpness of saffron, she tells me about her mother and grandmother and other women who left an indelible mark on her.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Deborah in A Travel Tip: I had a girly weekend away and needed something very small and light to take on my train/backpack/bus trip to see a friend. I took a freebie of Dolce that… August 1, 2014 at 12:50am

  • flowergirlbee! in Cult Perfumes: i have found weather a major factor in how that smells…it is a no go in the cold for me… get it in the right weather and it can be… August 1, 2014 at 12:27am

  • Elisa in Cult Perfumes: You gotta snap those rarities up when you find them. Regrets over lost perfumes are worse than regretting buying something you didn’t really need. July 31, 2014 at 11:49pm

  • Elisa in Cult Perfumes: I considered that one for this list! never tried it but I almost ordered a sample to see what it’s like. July 31, 2014 at 11:48pm

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