Oh Coco!

Georges Goursat, Wikimedia
Georges Goursat, Wikimedia Commons

If you are like me, you rarely let a day go by in which you do not quote Coco Chanel at least once.  Among her famous quotes is my favorite:

  "A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future.”

In The Secret of Chanel No. 5, author Tilar  J. Mazzeo gives us the interesting tale  behind world's most famous perfume and the woman behind it.  The saga begins in the 1920s and continues through World War II which plays a large part in its arrival on American shores.

It's impossible to talk  perfume history without mentioning France and its history.  In A Scented Palace, Elisabeth de Feydeau tells the story Jean-Louis  Fargeon perfumer to none other than Marie Antoinette.  Unfortunately for Fargeon, there was more brewing in Paris at that time than just his perfumes.  It was called the French Revolution.  Author Elisabeth de Feydeau,  gives us a peek into the life of this famous nose in addition to a quick and di

We now know that Empress Marie Antoinette had a nose for perfume, but she was nothing compared to the   The Emperor of Scent.   Written  by New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr.  It’s usually Luca Turin using the funny terms.  At times Turin goes off on slight rants about perfume, but, the man is more than entitled to do so.  He’s a biophysicist and expert on the sense of smell.  He’s also the author of: The Secret of Scent  In their earlier book:  Perfumes, these two authors reviewed nearly 1,900 perfumes.  Their latest is called, The Little Book of Perfumes and is the result of their sifting those 1,900 down to a mere 100.  As Sanchez writes in the book’s foreword, “The fragrances reviewed in this book are not the greatest of all time-instead, they are those that struck us as far above their peers in quality, inventiveness, or straightforward beauty…”



The book is arranged alphabetically by the perfume’s name rather than by the date it came out.  If you are a perfume love, the date is significant.  Whenever possible, Turin and Sanchez went to the trouble of hunting down samples of the perfumes as they were originally formulated.  So many classic fragrances just are not what they used to be due to regulations on allergens.  So, if you have ever suspected that your favorite old perfume just  doesn’t smell the way it used to, you are probably right.

There is great romance as well as humor used to characterize the scents that made their top 100.  At times the authors use lovely terms like: symphonic floral, milky rose, or heavenly heliotrope to characterize certain scents.   Then other times you'll find perfumes described with language like: humongous floral, hot rubber, or, my personal favorite, Godzilla floral (Insolence eau de parfum by Guerlain).

While Turin has an awesome nose, he’s still not really an actual “nose.”  That is, someone who creates perfume.  But, the brilliant Jean-Claude Ellena is.  The Diary of A Nose: a year in the life of a parfumeur.  The Secret of Scent.