Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez just published their Perfumes The Guide 2018, the first new version of the book in ten years. The Kindle version was released on June 28th, while the paperback version came out on July 13th or 14th.
I thought that everyone knew about the release, so I was astonished to hear more than a few people say in the niche/artisanal sample giveaway thread that they had no idea there even was a new book! It has been the subject of quite a few discussions in the perfume world already, which is one reason why I didn’t think to add to it with a review of my own here, but I’ve changed my mind after the comments, particularly as a good number of you went off to buy the book following my post and others have asked for my thoughts on certain fragrance assessments. So I decided to write a review, though it will be a little unconventional at times.
A bit of background context might be useful since the later parts of this review will rely on my ad hoc commentary on Twitter. As noted up above, the new Guide was first released on Kindle in late June for about $9.20 or £7.34. I’m not really one for digital books and, in fact, I don’t own a tablet of any kind. Some of you might be the same. Mr. Turin kindly explained that one could download the book to read on one’s phone with the Kindle App or something called Kobo. I’m a dinosaur who prefers my books to be tangible, on actual paper, and in my hands, but my impatience to read the new version led me to explore uncharted territory and try the Kindle App. It was much easier to set up than I had expected and I dove into the new Guide within minutes. (Flipping around between sections on a phone is still nowhere as easy or speedy as it is with an actual book, in my opinion, but it’s probably a question of one’s comfort zone and what one is used to.) Thankfully, the concrete version came out two weeks later and I quickly bought that one as well.
Though people asked me both privately and publicly about my thoughts on the book I hesitated to write an actual post on the subject here on the blog for a few reasons. First, I approached the book from a very particular perspective, one not necessarily shared by many other readers. For one thing, I’m not a producer, creator, nose, or perfume house; for another, I’m not a basic, every day perfume user. I’m certainly not like some of the commentators whom I read on one site who complained vociferously that the book didn’t cover enough big mainstream or designer brands and who opined, either angrily or querulously, that it included too many small indie, artisanal, or niche brands that they had never heard of. Unlike one chap who sneered at all the “unknown” artisanal brands and said he would have preferred a wholly specialized book covering 500 mainstream masculines — listing many names which, ironically, I had never heard of and which, I would venture a guess, most of you haven’t heard of, either — I was quite delighted with the new, heightened emphasis on niche, artisan, indie and luxury brands. After all, that’s my particular area of focus and interest, not Estée Lauder, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Elizabeth Arden, Clean, Burberry, or Lamborghini flankers. (Yes, apparently, the latter are a thing, all four of them! Who knew?!)
Another reason for my different perspective is that I approached the book as both a writer and as a blogger. When I first started this bizarre experience called perfume reviewing, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez were my role models. I didn’t want to write pieces that were 100% positive, gushing, gooey, and filled with fluff 100% of the time. Nor was my goal to fluff up the perfume houses or the noses, let alone seek ad clicks and benefit advertisers, as some sites (which shall remain nameless) do.
I didn’t give a hoot about any of them because my goal was to benefit the consumer, not the brands. Specifically, those who couldn’t buy everything or had a budget and who consequently needed factual, analytical, and critical assessments of the pros and cons of a scent, rather than romantic fairy tales or eloquent literary abstractions. In fact, my ideal intended target audience were those who were as OCD as I am and who wanted as many facts as possible, including information on the development of a scent, the adequacy or lack thereof of the drydown, the sillage over time, if the scent was filled with synthetics, whether the fragrance was worth the price when taken as a whole, what others thought of it, a compilation of relevant follow-up links all in one place, including retail links, and more. Turin and Sanchez didn’t do those things, but they were candid and blunt, sometimes brutally so, and they could write beautifully with erudition and wit. They were my role models — only I would dissect things in 3,500 to 7,000 words, not in one to three perfect and perfectly succinct broad overview sentences. (The day I’m that succinct is the day you know I’ve been kidnapped and I’m secretly sending you a coded S.O.S.)
As a writer, my admiration knows no bounds. The cleverness, deft wit, and range of fragrance knowledge displayed continuously and repeatedly in these reviews is as impressive as the wider erudition and the beautiful writing. On a purely technical basis, they’re both fantastic craftsman. I mean, I cannot even begin to fathom how one can summarize a scent, complete with brilliant metaphors, analogies, or wit, in just three or four sentences. My text/SMS messages are longer. (No, seriously, they are.)
A further reason why I’ve avoided writing about the book before now is something much more mundane: redundancy. If you follow me on Twitter, I’ve probably bored you silly already with my two separate, long threads, wherein I tweeted while reading the book in live or semi-live time. The first one was at the end of June when I downloaded the Kindle version and wrote late at night and into the early morning hours. (Initially, with a glass of wine before I snorted most of it out on my shirt over some of the hilarious biting snark.) The second thread was last week after receiving the paperback which enabled me to read more closely, comprehensively, and without skipping around. There were things that I had missed the first go-around which I covered there, as well as revisiting some points of confusion which I’d referenced in the first thread.
[On a completely unrelated note, if you don’t follow me on Twitter, I don’t necessarily recommend signing up to do so, because I don’t tweet much about perfume. In fact, for the longest time I didn’t tweet anything but links to reviews on the blog. The rest of the time I stayed silent. These days, I tweet quite a bit more, but it’s increasingly about politics, the Supreme Court or the law, dogs, or something inconsequential which is non-perfume related. It’s a boring, low-key, rather mundane Twitter feed, to be honest. All of which makes it even odder that the infamous Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, late of the Trump White House, followed me last week. No, I don’t understand it, either, even if neither of us are fans of Steve Bannon.]
Returning to the subject of the new Guide, one reason why it’s worth explaining that I’ve approached things from a different perspective than some is because the book has drawn a lot of criticism in some quarters. In fact, I would venture to say that the first book had nothing even remotely resembling what has ensued over this one during the last few weeks. It’s not only the angriest of backlashes, not only have some people completely trashed the book, but some of it has also included highly vitriolic personal attacks against the two authors. One reason why might be the fact that more than half the book consists of One Star or Two Star reviews — more than half! Another is that many tiny houses received brutal reviews.
When it comes to several indie or artisanal houses, I can understand the impetus for the emotionally charged responses, on a theoretical basis at least, even if I personally don’t like a particular scent. A number of the brands are extremely small companies without a wide fan base or a plethora of gushing rave reviews. My personal rule has always been to stay silent and not write negative reviews in those cases. When reading the Guide, there were a few brands for whom, after the 4th or 5th scorching, blistering review, my heart just hurt — and they’re not even brands that I’ve championed or written about!
In a few cases, the authors’ issue seemed to be the technical skill demonstrated or, to be precise, the lack thereof. Mr. Turin’s Twitter response to some of the teeth-gnashing fury would seem to indicate as much. He tweeted: “if you sell a fragrance as an artisan for more money than Antaeus or Shalimar, you should be judged accordingly. This is no longer a Crafts Fair, no more excuses.”
In Mr. Turin’s introductory essay in the book, a sentence in his final paragraph stands out as further testament to this thinking or approach: “In this guide we have tried to treat the largest and smallest firms roughly equally, because both pretentious mediocrity and talent seem to be about equally distributed throughout the fragrance world.”
That equalizing treatment may seem unfair and it can be quite painful to read at times but a close scrutiny of the introductory essays and of a few niche reviews make it abundantly clear that the authors have lost patience with the pretentiousness and cynical codswallop involved when people simply launch brands for the sake of making money or put together any old olfactory mishmash of things accompanied by ludicrous PR text. It’s the lack of heart, soul, authenticity, and care which are being singled out in those cases. Not every case, mind you, but in a few. And I tend to find myself agreeing. If you saw the prose and hogwash on one or two websites, like the one whose name includes the word “Blood” or the absolutely ludicrous word salad used to describe a different brand’s Raphael-inspired fragrance, you probably would as well.
In the past, many of you who read this blog have pointed out, mocked, rolled your eyes at, or expressed your frustration over cynical marketing ploys or asinine PR prose for mediocre fragrances that come with ridiculously high prices, so should it be any surprise that Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez feel the same way? (Even more so after smelling more than 1,200 fragrances in a year, when merely a fraction of that number would be enough to make you or me feel cynical about the current perfume landscape.) The authors make their feelings known in the opening essays, both explicitly and implicitly, and that’s when they’re not pointedly referring to rip-offs or to how many “so-called independents are now created with what they call a successful ‘exit strategy’ in mind, i.e. cashing in and selling out.”
Take for example the following quote from Tania Sanchez’ opening essay which is merely one of many examples of their understandable frustration with certain trends in niche perfumery:
What confused and perplexed me were two completely different, unrelated matters: first, the issue of inclusivity or scope of coverage; and second, the occasional to frequent dissonance between the star rating and the nature of the accompany text, particularly for fragrances given Three Stars or Two Stars.
With regard to the dissonance issue, there are a number of fragrances, including some Three Stars, whose accompanying text basically reads as though their scores should be significantly lower. To me, some Three Stars read like Twos, while many, many, many Twos read as though they should really be Ones or, were it possible, no stars at all. I realize it’s a question of personal, subjective textual interpretation, but I found a number of reviews implied something along the lines of: “I had to scrub this one after a few hours;” “I can’t imagine anyone in their sane mind wanting to wear this;” “this is the most mundane thing ever;” or “this is an embarrassing and poorly done fragrance.” In those cases, the accompanying star rating didn’t match, in my opinion. To give you just one example, the review for Eau Sauvage Parfum essentially boils down to: “I was acutely embarrassed to have seen through this” bad magician’s “sorry secret” because the fragrance is complete “gibberish” whose “coarseness” of materials and “the total absence of the magical grace of” its precursor render it a “failure.” Reading that you, too, might wonder why it received Three Stars (“Good”) rather than the seemingly more warranted Two Stars (“Not Good”) or even One Star (“Avoid”).
With regard to the issue of inclusivity, there were a number of brands about which I would have enjoyed reading Mr. Turin or Ms. Sanchez’s perspectives, either because they are very popular, very big, or staggeringly expensive houses. To name just a few: SHL 777, Armani (e.g., Privé), Jovoy, Montale, Mancera, Fragrance du Bois, Clive Christian, Henri Jacques, & LVMH’s new Louis Vuitton brand. On Twitter, the guys from “Wafts from the Loft” pointed out two others which I forgot about and which I, too, would have liked reading about: Profumum Roma and Xerjoff. I’m sure there are others we’ve forgotten as well.
The reasons for the omission have not been made clear. In some cases, I think it’s due to the difficulty of obtaining samples of some of these brands in Greece. A larger part of it appears to be that some brands didn’t submit anything, perhaps because they missed the deadline, they forgot, they didn’t know, or because they didn’t want to. (Hiram Green and Arquiste, for example, apparently fall into the latter category.) On the other hand, the Acknowledgement section thanks the owners of a few perfume stores (e.g., Franco of Luckyscent) for their “assistance,” which could suggest that they sent samples, so who knows?
Still, at the end of the day, you have to realize that the book covers more than a 1,200 fragrances and that’s quite a Herculean feat of sniffing in one year. Furthermore, new editions will be released every year which will include additional scents, so the next one(s) may well cover some of the omitted brands.
When taken as a whole, is this a perfect book? No. But, as I said on Twitter, few things in life are perfect, not even my beloved Teutonic Overlords. (Shocking, I know. But, yes, even the Hairy Germans have a few flaws. Microscopic ones, mind you. That’s as far as I’m willing to go.)
Even so, I think this is a brilliant book written by two brilliant people. Whether or not one agrees with them about a particular fragrance assessment doesn’t change that fact, in my opinion. There are few things as subjective as scent and, arguably, nothing more driven by a whole range of personal, idiosyncratic variables. I’m always befuddled when I read comments on perfumery which are clearly posited on the assumption that there is one Absolute Universal Truth or a Right and Wrong in perfumery. There isn’t. We’re talking about invisible molecules which are interpreted or filtered through millions of different lenses, background experiences, personal body chemistries, individual tastes, biases, spectrums of knowledge, and so on. This is not akin to 2 + 2 always equals 4. You have your beliefs, I have mine, and they have theirs — and none of it should change what you love, I love, or they love. They know that, which is why they brush upon the issue of subjectivity in one of the opening sections when they write: “These reviews are not objective assessments deriving from scientific analysis. They, like all criticism, are the work of informed subjectivity.” [Emphasis added by me.]
So if you get angry upon reading The Guide, please keep in mind that the authors are not expecting their views to replace your own. I do not know Ms. Sanchez but from what little I know of Luca Turin as a person (which is admittedly not a lot), I would bet money that he would never expect you to change your feelings about the fragrances you love. In fact, I have the feeling that he would be disappointed in you if you did.
Plus, who agrees with every critic 100% or even 80% of the time? I haven’t with Turin and Sanchez and you don’t with me, but that’s the nature of the field. Even if a large number of people disagreed with The New York Times‘ notable restaurant critic Pete Wells after his now infamous scathing critique and star take-down of Thomas Keller’s Per Se (which triggered a veritable earthquake in the restaurant world) that doesn’t change the fact that the man knows a good deal about food and a damn sight more than the average person. The same holds true here.
Bottom line: the new Guide is a brilliant book in my opinion, a fascinating roller coaster of a ride, filled with little gems or pearls of insightful wisdom and, if you have even the smallest interest in perfumery, it is unquestionably a “Must Read” and “Must Buy” in my opinion.
So that’s my broad overview and perspective on the book, but when it comes to the specifics of why I think it’s such an exhilarating ride, I can’t add much more than what I already wrote on Twitter in two long threads. There is apparently a nifty new device that “unrolls” threads to make them easy to follow and that’s what I’ve used here to share my earlier comments with you. You’ll basically accompany me on my roller coaster ride of live-reading the book, even if it’s sometimes a random compilation of spontaneous gut reactions. But at least you’ll get a sense of what’s in the book if you haven’t decided to buy it yet.
Please keep in mind that Twitter is not my forte or my ideal medium; that the character limits are my nemesis and make it difficult for me to express myself as I normally do; that I make five times more cellphone auto-correct errors than the average person; and that I posted both threads late at night when I was sleep-deprived. Also, just to let you know, WordPress kept screwing up the formatting of the “unrolled” text when I copied it here, so I took the liberty of changing the line and paragraph breaks in order to make the delineation between tweets clearer and easier to discern.
TWITTER THREAD #1 – June 28-29th:
1/2 — Sitting down w/ the new #PerfumeGuide by @Turin_Luca /@taniasanchez and a glass of wine — reading, laughing, wincing, nodding, then wincing or laughing some more.
2/2 First time I’ve ever read a book on a phone but I was too impatient to wait for the paperback. Opening up the first pages felt like Christmas & opening a present — except better. This has epic scope, they’re both brilliant, and I would never want to return it.
May need a 2nd glass of wine, though, for some of the particularly brutal reviews or for the scathing or shrugging dismissal of a few personal favs. Separately, I’d forgotten that it was possible to wince, cringe, AND laugh at the same time. This book is impossible to put down.
I feel as though I should be live tweeting my reactions to this book as I read because, wow, what a rollercoaster of reactions. I went from a physical “yeah!” fist in the air to gasping “Oh.My.God!” out loud 2 min. later at something on the next page
Poor Amber Loup, I will hug you tightly no matter what. Yay for Satori getting recognized, esp. for Hana Hiraku & creativity. Confused why some 2 Stars read like they should actually be 1 to no Stars.
🤣🤣: L’Orpheline (Serge Lutens) ★ incense cashmeran This from Serge Lutens? If he doesn’t care anymore, why the hell should we? LT
Laine de Verre (Serge Lutens) ★★ aldehydes cashmeran Interesting zingy accord, amounting to approximately one fifth of a fragrance. LT 🤣🤣
Hilarious. Choked on my drink at:
“It’s as if Estée Lauder came out with an extension line for Knowing that included a floor cleaner. TS”
“Smells like the aisle in a home improvement shop where the cheap carpets are exhaling their volatiles. TS”
Decided it was safer to splutter water after this one:
“This is to an actual perfume what nylon mesh is to dupioni silk. TS”
The Gabrielle review is EVERYTHING w/its digs about hereditary titles and Christopher Sheldrake being passed over but probably, inevitably coming in to save the day later with a significantly improved flanker “by way of explanation and apology sometime soon.” Burnnnn!!!
I honestly don’t understand how Bogue/Gardoni’s Gardelia gets 2 Stars but some crap Kilians get 3s or 4s & TF’s Soleil Blanc gets 3. (3!!) 😕🤔 Most other differences in opinion I can understand or figure out but that one? Oh well, differences in scent make life more interesting
🤣 “Ten-foot-tall Yankee Candle. The stuff of nightmares. LT”
You and me both. 🤣
Thanks for the warning:
“Nuclear-powered amber, stuns all life forms within range. I had to give my nose a two-hour rest after this one. LT”
I’m shuddering at the mere thought of it. If it did that to you, it would probably keel me over with my aromachem. sensitivities.
The sardonic, dry, cynically mocking punch-line to the One Star review for a big brand scent is what I believe the youngsters would call “a mic drop”:
“Shabby little thing, barely distinguishable from a thousand other shabby little things out there. Should do well. LT” 😂🔥😂
😂 3 in a row!😂
•”Skillful and utterly dull melon-cucumber thing. LT”
•”Skillful and utterly dull jasmine thing. LT”
•”Skillful and utterly dull fresh-peachy thing. I wish there was some time-delay material that would suddenly take a rabid bite out of where you sprayed it. LT
You really MUST buy this book if you have any interest in perfumery. That last trio of reviews, directed at a huge multinational brand (won’t spoiler it. Get the book!) had me literally LOL. The Teutonic Overlord can’t understand WTH has been happening for the last 2 hrs. 🤣🤣
For all that I appreciate the pithy barbs at mainstream bilge & the large, rich conglomerates, I appreciate even more the heightened recognition and attention given to artisanal & indie perfumers in this new edition. 👍👍👍
But my heart hurts for one tiny C° which got scorched alive. They’re not my thing, but it might have been kinder to skip them entirely perhaps? They’re tiny & it’s not as though they receive endless attention or hyperbole so that a counterbalance was needed. I just feel for them.
I fully admit, though, that I have an impulse towards the underdog (quite separate from my dog obsession in general), so maybe I’m not as objectively steely as the critic profession necessitates or requires?
Regardless, this book is riveting, compelling, and hard to put down. Nay, IMPOSSIBLE to put down. Informative & educational for novice & expert alike. A definite “Must Read” that takes the perfume lover on a rollercoaster of reactions from one page (or even paragraph) to the next
Reading it was practically an interactive experience for someone like me: Grins as I fist pumped the air, physical wincing, grimaces, “OUCH” repeated out loud, a few head scratches & admittedly, one or two glares & muttered “WTH!!s”.
But that rollercoaster is precisely the joy of the Perfume Guide, whatever the edition. That instinctive, visceral emotionality parallels the perfume experience itself and it’s also what makes the book so compelling, so hard to put down.
It takes skill and talent to do that to your readers, but Mr. Turin & Ms. Sanchez also bring great knowledge (technical, comparative, vintage, new, industry related and otherwise) to many of their summations. (Excluding the eviscerating one-liner, one-star reviews that is. 🤣)
In an attempt to parallel or adopt the authors’ admirable pithiness, bottom line: 5 Stars, Must Read.(*)
(*) Don’t read while drinking red wine and wearing a white shirt. You will splutter/snort/choke/spew it out at some point, making a total mess of yourself.
MUST add one final one because it’s genius, incomparable & @Turin_Luca’s brain is astonishing. One single ¶ references: Barbara Cartland’s boudoir, chintzes, Cicero, Catalina, & “a young woman with a tubful of spackle on her face” gaslighting senior citizens over reformulations.
I bow down in total awe. Barbara Cartland’s chintzy boudoir & *CICERO*?!! “‘Nothing has been changed, Madam, you’re just losing your marbles’”…!! Wowser. There is no-one in the perfume world who can create, then traverse, whole worlds in a few sentences like LT does. Bravo! 👏
TWITTER THREAD #2 – July 16-17th:
[Thread] @Turin_Luca/@taniasanchez’s #PerfumesTheGuide2018 paperback version arrived today. Funnily enough, each version came out on a terrible news/politics day so, once again, it’s a badly needed escape.
Going to tweet again while I go through a portion of it, finding new gems, areas of disagreement or befuddlement, and/or laughs. I find books much easier to read in detail or flip through than Kindle/digital stuff on a phone.
It’s so easy to miss little tidbits while squinting at small text on a phone. TS’s line regarding a SL fragrance made me grin: “These goth names lately seem to come from a parody Serge Lutens Name Generator.” 🤣
So true. Some remind me of the “what’s your stripper’s name” meme.
Also, after a fragrance I tested last week, I agree more than ever w/ TS’s introductory essay section on some men’s fragrances, their intentional aromachemical force & the gross “panty-dropper” obsession in some quarters. “Rubbing alcohol sized to destroy New York City” indeed.
Unchanged: my confusion regarding Bogue Gardelia’s 2 Stars. On my skin & to me, it’s clearly a riff on vtg Mitsouko & a chypre-oriental, not a green floral bouquet. Not meant to be a gardenia soliflore, imo. And, to me, on my skin, it’s lovely.
Imo, Roja Haute Luxe is even closer to vtg Mitsouko parfum. He’s basically implied as much. And, imo, it’s also lovely. Opulent, too. I thought LT loved Mitsouko, but I guess decades of copies or riffs are not all that interesting, even if nicely done?
Hurrah for 4 Stars for Sammarco’s Bond-T. I missed that in reading/skipping around the Kindle version. I love Bond-T. I don’t experience narcissus absolute, but I do experience the rest that LT described (and a whole lot more). So delectable. Congrats Giovanni S! Well deserved.
🤣 at one of the Guerlain One Star reviews: “First, the good news: Guerlain cannot sink any lower. Now the bad news: if people buy this, they will try. LT” 🤣
Ditto, imo, re. their over-priced Middle Eastern line w/ Godzilla woody-amber synths & (faux) “Oud.” 🙄 Hideous.
Completely agree on the observations in one YSL review re. L’Oréal’s pattern & practice re. fragrances. Same regarding LT’s assessment of the Vestiaire Collection. Granted, I’m biased & I despise L’Oreal for what they’ve done to a house I once loved, but still: Hear, Hear!
Once again, I grinned at the Cuir Garamante review where TS tells LT it’s stuffed w/ woody-amber. I’m with her. The mere *memory* of its rasping, grating & totally generic, banal woody-amber faux leather (w/ generic fruitchouli no less!) is making my lip curl. Go Tania!
😂 “I now know what a mall in hell smells like. LT”- regarding one of seven (7!!) Marc Jacobs’ Daisy flankers.
I’m laughing so hard, particularly as that’s exactly how I feel about Ropion’s 10+ La Vie Est Belle flankers & his further copies thereof for niche brands.
This explains so much regarding a number of fragrances put out by certain famous noses who have a very high annual output:
@Turin_Luca, I’m now desperately curious about Stalin’s favourite Georgian reds? What were they like? What would you compare them to, varietal or region wise?
Also: you found them in Singapore??! That’s… unexpected.
Hm, confused. The text & stars don’t always seem to match. Text of some reviews reads more like a 2 star, 1 Star or, were it possible, even a no-star review. E.g: Eau Sauvage Parfum (3) reads like a 2; TF’s Soleil Blanc (3) reads like 2. L’Artisan’s 2* Caligna reads like a 1.
I suppose it’s a fine line b/w “Not Good” & “Avoid.” Plus, text can be interpreted differently. But *many* 2 Stars seem, to me, to read like: “You’d be crazy to go near this.” Or: “cheap, terrible garbage that I couldn’t stand (or scrubbed).” Ergo, more like a 1 *. To me at least
Dug out my sample of Dali Haute Parfumerie’s Fluidité du Temps Imaginaire (by Albert Morilles) in response to the review and, damn, it’s the same on my skin! Pastel tutti-frutti floral with fabric softener. Crazily enough, it DOES smell a little like my doctor’s waiting room. 😂
Took a brief break to glance at the news, saw it was as hideous and infuriating as ever, and fled back to the book for mental escape. Thank god for momentary chuckles like: “Mawkish fruity floral with a disconcerting animalic note. Like reading a romance novel at the zoo.” 🤣
Dreckigbleiben: I can’t imagine writing a long review, as mine typically are, in which I had to reference this fragrance’s name repeatedly.
Also, it’s a brave firm that chooses a name starting with “Dreck-‘.
4 Stars or not, it sounds it’s filled w/ overly strong smoky synths.
“Treffpunkt 8 Uber:” another long name I’m glad I haven’t had to reference repeatedly in a review. Keeps making me think of Steampunk, even if that’s not the meaning. Unum’s Io Non Ho Mani-etc-etc-etc-etc still gets the “Most Awkward Name” award.
Speaking of Unum, I’d really love to know if they failed to send in samples for review, forgot, didn’t care, or something else. Same with: SHL 777, Armani (e.g., Privé), Jovoy, Montale, Mancera, Fragrance du Bois, Clive Christian, Henri Jacques, & LVMH’s new Louis Vuitton brand.
I initially read “Limon de Cardoza” as limon cordiale, and now I’m craving limoncello.
The scent does not have the same appeal.
Definitely not craving “Lucky Wish,” a “lemon freesia” Anna Sui scent described simply as: “fingernails on blackboard.”
Is there such a thing as a “good” freesia scent, sans excess shampoo, hairspray, Bounce, or plastic shower curtain notes? I haven’t encountered one yet.
What brilliant writing from TS, what an analogy. I know a few Europeans who imagine American women fit this bizarre, binary stereotypical construct. But they conjure up the image of Lynn Wyatt (or even Ivanka Trump) rather than Jean Smart.
I shuddered at: “the most demonic woody-amber in memory seized you in its supernatural grip and rattles you till you fold. TS”
Was it Amber Xtreme? Also, while I’m cognizant of the masculine/Bro trend, materials like this just make me want to plaintively wail: “whyyyyy?!
What an erudite and clever review. I haven’t tried the scent, so I can’t speak to the “white on white” metaphor, but I recall only 4 or 5 fragrances from Alberto Morillas that I really liked or loved. He’s at 449 now??! 😲 Holy moly!
If I had to smell 4 Lamborghini flankers, 7 Marc Jacob Daisy ones, 3 La Vie est Belles, 5 Estée Lauder Modern Muses, 4 Cleans, 3 CK Ones, 4 Trésor/Nuit Trésors, hideous L’Oreal YSL swill, & untold Guerlain LPRN/Aqua Allegorias/bad faux Middle Easterns, I would shoot myself.
Whether or not one agrees with particular reviews, there’s no denying the bravura endeavor of smelling even a tenth of this stuff. (Black Opium alone put me in a filthy mood for a week. Let alone some of the rest.)
And, again, whether or not one agrees with individual, particular reviews, I find so much of the writing to be incisive, witty, astute, and/or brimming with actual voice or character. Sometimes a harsh, possibly biting one — true. But they take a stand & don’t straddle fences.
Like it or not, it’s refreshing in an age when far too many sites are all gushing, all hype, all accolades or, at best, wishy-washy waffling. LT & TS say what they actually think. (They also express themselves brilliantly & with great clarity. As a writer, I find that admirable.)
Having said that, I think people should smell, test, or wear what they like based on their own personal style or preferences. Nothing is written in stone in perfumery. There is no one Truth, no one Absolute. Scent may be the most subjective product in the world. So many variables
I will continue to love what I love & hate what I hate, regardless of their ratings. You should too. I doubt the authors would expect otherwise.
I don’t think one’s personal feelings about indiv. scents changes the fact that the book, as a whole, is a masterful, beautifully written and bravura accomplishment filled w/ invaluable information, insider tidbits, wit, candor & erudition.
What I said 2 weeks ago in the first thread still applies: it’s a rollercoaster ride of Ouches, Yays, LOLs, gasps, and winces that’s both exhilarating, informative, and entertaining to read. (The subtle Nazi dig at Chanel in “1932” put me in a good mood for a whole hour.)
I’ve observed the reactions & controversy swirling around the book but, imo, the fact that it manages to elicit such a range of intense emotions makes it worth reading even more. It’s a particular accomplishment in the otherwise milksop world of perfume reviewing.
No, The Guide is not perfect in my opinion, but few things are. (Not even German Shepherds, believe it or not. Shocking, I know!) Imo, there is a definite need for critical, candid looks at scent, especially given the PR-driven hogwash I read in magazines.
That’s it for tonight. More tomorrow perhaps, depending on how much I need to block out the rage-inducing horrors of the news and escape. I’m going to go re-read the several L’Oreal trashings for the 4th time w/ a big smirk and a glass of wine
I realize this has been an unconventional book review and the post is nothing like my usual way of writing or analyzing things, but sometimes one must just go with the flow. I couldn’t possibly write anything as spontaneously instinctive, candid, or genuine as I did in these two threads in the late hours of the night and morning. At the very least, it should give you a good idea of what a visceral, immediate experience reading the book can be, and I think it will be the same for many of you who have just bought a copy.
If you haven’t yet bought the book, I think it’s really worth doing so. I meant what I said towards the end of the second thread: it’s an accomplishment when something hits you in the solar plexus as often, repeatedly, and emotionally as this book does. It takes no-holds-barred candour, bold self-expression, and authenticity to do that. Moreover, covering more than 1,200 fragrances across the entire fragrance spectrum is a bravura feat — equal parts mastery and masochism, if you ask me. (Extreme masochism. Have I mentioned the slew of horrible flankers they sniffed? It would kill me.) Will you agree with everything they’ve written? I think I’ve made it clear that the answer is “No.” (Ambre Loup, I will love you always!) But I’ve also tried to make it clear that they’re not Moses on high and that disagreements don’t change either the entertaining fun of the book or its insights and value.
Finally, if you’ve only just purchased the Guide, I want to single out one thing which I thought was brilliant and which I think you should read before you go diving into the scores for your favourite fragrances: Ms. Sanchez’s introductory essay. I thought it was fantastic, astute, insightful, and accurate. Her broad overview analysis included, among other things, a discussion of: the overall state of the industry; changes thereto in the ten years since the last book; trends in niche or quasi-“niche” nowadays; the explosion of artisanal brands and their various approaches; trends in men’s fragrances (which also included a glorious reference to the gross, loathsome “panty dropper” obsession in some quarters); how “oud is the new vanilla;” and loads of highly relevant technical issues, such as the limited palette of materials for good bases in perfumery, its subsequent impact on fragrance structures and drydowns (“the drydown has become a minority interest”), and the trend towards over-compensating with strong woody-amber aromachemicals.
If this rather unconventional book review has piqued your interest but you have not yet purchased a copy, here are a few retail links: Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Amazon France, Amazon Germany, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Italy, and Amazon Australia.
I believe a hardback edition will be issued much later this year as well, possibly as a signed version, but I’m not sure of the exact details at the current time.
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I must must must order the book!! I adore their reviews and could care a whit if I “agree” with them. I almost never like Turin’s faves, but I respect him greatly. But more importantly, I adore the writing and the humor. So much fun!! As is your post, my dear!
You must! It’s a fantastic distract from you know what. The snark level has gone up by 10 since the last book. I think you’d laugh your head off.
BTW, darling, you entered the giveaway yesterday, right? Someone did, writing in as JulieRise, but I assumed that was you and merely an accidental typo. (I know your keyboard issues.) I put you down on my list as JulieHRose. Unless there is someone else out there with a similar name and you did not enter?
My typing problems!! And I used to do transcription work!! Thank you so much my dear for noticing. I have been accidentally typing Rise instead of Rose for a while. Urghh!!
Thank you Kafkaesque, you’ve convinced me I need to get this book and read it. I know I’ll thoroughly enjoy the writing, and oh, how I need a good laugh! All best to you and yours.
I’m beyond delighted to hear that you’ve been tempted or persuaded, Holly. I hope it will be the ray of escapist sunshine for you that it was for me.
“Codswallop”! How on earth did you learn that obscure Yorkshire dialect? I interrupted my very pleasant reading at that to comment down here. Excuse me. Back to the very entertaining review. . .
Haha, your comment made me grin. To answer your question: I learnt English from some old, rather Victorian-like nannies. None were from Yorkshire that I can recall, but certain anachronistic expressions have remained a pervasive (and oft relied upon) part of my vocabulary. They’re also the reason why I, unlike many people today, know who Barbara Cartland is and exactly what her name symbolizes. *grin*
I’m glad you enjoyed the review.
I enjoyed this enormously and I am glad you found reading it a distraction from the state of the world. We currently need a LOT of distraction….
Oh boy, do we ever. :/ Some days, the only things which bring a smile to my face have four legs and, even then, it doesn’t always change my overall mood or state of mind.
Great review! I felt a bit guilty Ive been enjoying the book so much after reading some of the critique. I also thought the introductory essay was highly informative and interesting.
I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the book as much as I have. As for Ms. Sanchez’s introductory essay, it’s really insightful and astute, isn’t it? I marked gigantic chunks with a yellow highligher just so that I could speedily return to them because I *know* I’ll be quoting them in the future.
Also: I applaud anyone who dings that revolting “panty-dropper” expression, philosophy, and personal mission. That part of the essay alone made me do a “Hell yeah!”
Wonderful review! I’ve been enjoying the new guide too, and laughing a lot as I read the reviews. Now that I’ve been reading the original Guide and trying perfumes for a while, I know where my tastes will depart from Turin and Sanchez, and I read their comments accordingly, but I still learn so much from them. And I do appreciate their puncturing of some of the hype, especially with the super-expensive fragrances. Personally, I don’t blog about fragrances I dislike, because that’s not the point of my own blog, and my “reviews” are more like personal reflections that I hope may resonate with some readers. Reading Turin’s and Sanchez’ unvarnished, witty comments is very cathartic, especially as a break from the attention I am paying to public affairs, like you.
I know exactly where my tastes depart, too, but, like you, I learn so much from them, particularly about the more mystery-shrouded aspects of actual perfume development. For example, the screencap I posted referencing Mark Buxton’s comments at a perfumer’s seminar regarding the Frankenstein-like attachment of different limbs (accords) from different fragrances. Suddenly, so many things made sense.
It’s industry-related perfumer methodologies, insider tricks, or raw material analysis like this which makes Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez’s books — past and present — so educational and valuable to me. How anyone could question the degree of their knowledge is simply beyond me.
Thank you for the like (I didn’t know you could do that with WordPress!) :). I received your comment along with it, but couldn’t find what you were referring to… were you talking about TS’ or LT’s twitter feed, or something else? Would love to find it!
The last LT blog I read was “Perfumes I Love”, which he wrapped up a year or more ago. I enjoyed it enormously. Is there a newer one?
Hi! No, there’s not a newer blog by LT and TS, I meant to refer to their comments in the new Guide and contrast their approach to mine. I have a personal blog, and I choose not to comment on fragrances I dislike. I liked “Perfumes I Love” too!
Great roundup. Yes, the vitriol is flowing. Both in the reviews, which are in great form after too long an absence, and in the responses, which have been surprising.
It’s a series of opinions on a completely subjective subject matter. If I had to review that many perfumes in a year, I’d review what I wanted, or what interested me, too. LT and TS were quite clear that one of the criteria they were judging was the degree of novelty in composition and effect. I’m firmly in the camp that is delighted to see more reviews for niche and artisanal perfumes; it’s where my interest lies and I see no need to apologize for that.
Saying that, if the new guide was solely reviews of mainstream and designer scents I’d have bought and enjoyed it for the joy of the intelligent and pithy reviewing, even if I had little interest in the scents reviewed, or experience to compare. Writing is a personal pursuit, and a reflection of one’s passion. LT and TS know who their audience is, in addition to being clear regarding their personal likes and dislikes. It’s what gives their writing authenticity. I doubt they give a fig for those that demand something different.
Getting mad about an authentic and well-informed opinion that disagrees with one’s own is a sad reflection of discourse in the modern age. Mind you, shouting about opinions on the internet is so common as to be unworthy of comment ;).
No, I don’t think they give a fig either for those who demand something different. Definitely not for those who believe all perfume criticism should be light and fluffy all the time. Granted, that’s not the issue for some but I know from personal experience after all these years that there are some people who have a conniption at anything critical and who find anything even minutely critical or negative to be “vicious” and “sadistic.” I’ve dealt with this for years. And it hasn’t always been a barrel of laughs…
Angry disagreements over the aether are, as you say, common nowadays. But what I find to be absolutely unacceptable are the personal attacks on the two authors as people. Unfortunately, that, too, is common nowadays. Be that as it may, to more or less call someone “senile” simply because you disagree with their review of your favourite fragrance or favourite perfume brand is appalling, in my opinion. Absolutely appalling.
Moving on… I feel exactly the same way you do when you wrote: “if the new guide was solely reviews of mainstream and designer scents I’d have bought and enjoyed it for the joy of the intelligent and pithy reviewing, even if I had little interest in the scents reviewed, or experience to compare.”
Ditto. Some of my greatest moments of joy in reading the book involved the designer houses or big companies, even if I haven’t tried the fragrances in question. I was practically bringing out the champagne at the repeated scalping of bloody L’Oreal — long may they rot. Since you’ve read me closely and for years, you know just how much I loathe them for what they did to Yves Saint Laurent (not to mention my beloved Opium). So, that, the Nazi-related dig at Chanel, and the skewering of some excessively aromachemical mainstream scents were — just by themselves — worth every penny I spent on the book. Every penny. Man, I would pay Luca Turin to trash L’Oreal, Black Opium, and Chanel’s Nazi past to me in person. I really would.
Lol. Hear hear!
My response to the mainstream ruination of beautiful things has been to hunt down some vintage Femme; am now the proud owner of some 60’s parfum and, oh my goodness, it’s as gorgeous as I remembered. It blows all the $300 and upward modern dross out of the water. And reminds me why I fell in love in the first place.
And for the record, dear K, that very quality of authenticity that I admire from LT and TS is one that you demonstrate in spades. With every. Single. Review. Know that there’s enough love and esteem out here to crush every bit of spineless hatred that people seem to think it’s their right to sow. And any time you need reminding you have only to say so!!
We will ride, like Valkyries annointed with vintage Opium, and Mitsouko, and Femme to the defence of truth, and beauty, and wonderful smells 🙂
Don’t make me sniffle! But, seriously, thank you. It means a lot. I’m not just saying that. There have been a number of things which have put me off blogging in the last year or 6 months or have made it easier to care about other things, so your kindness and your comments really do mean something enormous to me. I guess I did need a little reminding, perhaps because the entire world seems so much off its rocker and so filled with anger or antipathy over the last 18-months that it’s felt safer to retreat from constant walking on eggshells or endless minefields. I mean, who wants to be dissected all the time, nonstop, for years and years every time one posts?
I’ve increasingly thought that this really isn’t for me, not in the current climate where, frankly, *every* damn thing is stressful, negative, and unpleasant. If the larger situation were different, it would be easier to put into a context and shake off. Any other year or time, it would be fine. It’s part of the critic’s job. But, at this particular moment in time, I’m really just not in the mood to do a tight-rope walk. (And that’s only one of the many, many, many stressors in blogging. I mean, damn, no-one is paying me to go through the virtual equivalent of a root-canal every time I write, so why subject myself to something which I increasingly hate or dread?)
Oh dear, I veered a little off-topic and into a slight moan-fest. My apologies. This is what happens when I don’t sleep properly for days and have a ton of bigger, personal worries which are stressing me out. Just know that your words meant a lot to me. A lot. I send you a massive hug.
Any time, my dear, any time. You’ve been a light through my perfume journey, and I couldn’t have had a better friend to walk with me.
Huge hugs to you and the German from us. The world is crazy at the moment, and people (online especially) are as jumpy as a bag of frogs. With each set of headlines, I find I have less energy to create, and more respect for my dog. Have been on a creative hiatus myself the last six months or so, and haven’t made anything that has excited me. Turning off the news and cuddling a four-legged is remedy. Knowing there are people like you out there is too.
Be well, my friend.
I don’t know you, except through your inimitable and deeply beautiful writing. It would be a less interesting world if you stopped posting. My two scents. Awful pun. But really you are an inspiration, and a kind and very entertaining essayist. You really only need one reader to have a reason to keep going! And I think there may well be uncountable readers apart from this one who would miss your voice. All power to your elbow! And love!
First off, I would agree entirely with the haphazard selection. As soon as the eBook version was available, I immediately downloaded it and I raced to find the rating for a few favourites. Only to find out they weren’t included. I expected to read reviews of Xerjoff or SHL777 fragrances, to name just two, but sadly they were nowhere to be found.
Then there’s the strange issue of certain perfumes from certain houses being absent, too. For example, Frédéric Malle’s “Cologne Indélébile”, “Monsieur.”, and “Superstitious” are reviewed but “Portrait of A Lady” is not? That’s odd to say the least. Maybe they only reviewed what they received? One can only speculate, I guess.
Finally, I do think Luca is not always objective. For example, he clearly has a close relationship with Calice Becker and rates many of her perfumes very highly. A second example is his review of Jean-Michel Duriez fragrances. In his review of JMD’s “Bleu Framboise”, he explains that he contacted Duriez and asked for an explanation. Then, he reevaluated all fragrances. I don’t think he extended the same courtesy to any other perfumer, which seems unfair.
In any case, I found the book entertaining and had tremendous fun reading some of his reviews. I also value his insights since his knowledge and background offer him a unique perspective. But in the end, just like all of us, Luca has his preferences and dislikes. Which makes the guide a very well-written, very informed personal opinion.
I completely agree with you regarding the Calice Becker reviews, and I noted that myself. I also noted how one Calice Becker fragrance that, imo, was basically just a solitary base accord — Sacred Wood — was not included when all her other ones were. And Sacred Wood was actually a fragrance which came out at the same time as and in conjunction with the Imperial Tea fragrance which received 4 Stars, so omitting that one when giving its companion 4 Stars was a bit surprising to me. I honestly cannot imagine Luca Turin thinking Sacred Wood was a 4 Star fragrance, but what do I know? To me, it was a 2 Star fragrance consisting of one drab, mundane, anemic, and overly simplistic base accord which was accompanied by a ridiculous price. But, just as you noted, this whole thing is completely subjective and personal.
To channel Chandler Bing: can you GET anything more subjective than perfumery??? You can’t even see the damn thing, unlike food, art, or fashion. And unlike music or the aforementioned areas, there is also the matter of individual body chemistry which literally changes the character of the item from one person to another to the next.
Very nice catch on “Sacred Wood”! It definitely cements our suspicions.
I agree as well on the subjectivity aspect of perfume in general. For example, I know people who adore the smell of petrol (I confess, I do not detest it) while others can’t stand the smell.
Furthermore, most of the arts have a pretty well-defined critical vocabulary. You can talk about painting in terms of colour, line, shape, texture, etc. But in the olfactory realm, we’re really not that well equipped to describe anything in detail.
P.S. Long-time reader and first-time poster, just wanted to say I love reading your reviews and articles!
I’m delighted then that you stepped out of the shadows and lurkerdom. Don’t be a stranger in the future. Anyone who writes three to five nuanced, analytical paragraphs in a mere comment is my sort of person. (No, I do not have a succinct bone in my body, and yes, I appreciate those who are similar. lol)
Beloved Kafka, I shared your same thoughts on the incongruity of the text vs. rating, albiet in a slightly different way. I was pleasantly suprised many 4 star reviews were glowing enough to read… better (I.e. more praiseworthy) than the 5 star reviews. Florabotanica comes to mind. It’s as if the author’s wrote the reviews and decided there were just too many in the 5 star category. Anyhow, thank you, as always, for your blog! You, and Dr. Turin, and Mrs, Turin are my heroes!!! Please give the Hairy German a snuggle for me! Peace, Love, and the Kindest of Thanks for this writeup! 🙂
Thank you, my dear. I hope you and your husband (he especially given something you wrote a while back) are both well. And please give Rasputin a hug and nose boop from me! (Honestly, the name Rasputin is one of my favourites. Eons ago, I had a Blue Persian called Pushkin but “Rasputin” would have been way, way cooler and would also have suited his personality better. lol.)
I’ve been enjoying the 2018 Guide and have been reading it on my laptop Kindle app. (I broke my Kindle, long story, but I love the device as something of an antidote to my inherited hoarder tendencies; just bought a replacement.)
And I’ve enjoyed hearing what you think about it as well. We agree on so many points: the haphazard list of inclusions, the wonderfully succinct and clever writing, the no-apologies personal biases — LT certainly has a bee in his bonnet about anything named Gardenia Something or Iris Something, doesn’t he? — and the massive entertainment value.
As an aside, I don’t give a flip what it’s called, I love the smell of Chanel 1932. I know everybody says it’s derivative, I know it’s connected to moral loathesomeness, and I do not care. If I’m evil by proxy, so be it.
I think I would have liked to have seen more reviews by TS. The balance seems off to me, though I haven’t bothered to do an actual count by author.
All the same, I find it excellent diversion. Will probably buy the print version.
LOLOLOL at so many things from your gardenia/iris comment to the defiant 1932 response to the fact that you, too, have a few hoarder tendencies. (Don’t get me started on hoarding either books or vintage fragrances!). 😀 😀
Man, I’m laughing all over again merely re-reading your 1932 comment with its: “I know it’s connected to moral loathesomeness and I do not care. If I’m evil by proxy, so be it.” Haha. Mals, may you rock on forever! We may be Evil Scent Twins, but your wry, dry, sardonic sense of humour never fails to make me grin.
I really appreciate your thoughts on the book, Kafka. I’m one of the people who wasn’t even aware that this book had come out. Just reading your snippets had me crying with laughter and I can’t wait for it to arrive in the mail! I have a lot of respect for anyone who has a strong opinion they are not afraid to put out there. And if it is dressed in lashings of wit, even more so!
Carolin, you’re more than welcome. I’m glad I could help you learn about the book’s existence, but I’m even happier that the quoted snippets had you crying with laughter. To quote one perfumer’s private response to me: “You were right. No drinking red wine while reading this!” Heh. 😀
I should get my book tomorrow and I can’t wait. I’m dreading the Ambre Loup review but it won’t stop my love for it. One time while wearing AL, a child said to me, “you smell like flowers!” I could tell by the look on his 7 yr old face that a man who smells like flowers is a new, confusing experience. Lol (I don’t smell “flowers” in Ambre Loup).
Hahahaha, No, you do NOT smell of flowers while wearing Ambre Loup. But bless his little soul. How adorable.
My response to his flowers’ perception was two-fold: 1) I laughed so much; and 2) I instantly thought that, if this is a child you see often and know well, you might want to take him under your wing and teach him a little about scent. I mean, how many 7-year olds are even aware of scent or the notes they’re encountering (or, in his case, *think* they’re encountering)?? You could not only educate his nose but also teach him that it’s perfectly fine for a man to smell like flowers. My advice: start with one of the gourmands you love, because I bet he’d enjoy a sweet smell.
Whatever the case, cheers to another member of the Ambre Loup gang!
I couldn‘t stop reading and finished it in one sitting – and in fact, in 98% I agreed with the reviews. My favorite is : „the fragrance was so awful I could not even stand the smelling strip being on the table in front of me, and had to flush it down the toilet. I heard a distant patter of sewer rats stampeding away from it somewhere down the pipe“… Genius.
And yes, I would have liked to read about SHL, or Clive Christian too – but then again, I was extremely happy to read about Papillon parfums.
I hope both, you and The Hairy German are well and happy ! (LOL about the Smooch )
The one you quoted left me in hysterics. The “distant patter of rats”… I had already segued to water by the time I read that one but I remember having a half-coughing attack, half-nose-spewing fit where water went everywhere over me, my phone, and the cushion. What brilliant writing! It’s practically Hemingway-esque in pairing brevity with incisive self-expression and clarity. I don’t know how he does it. From a writer’s perspective, there is no-one like him in the perfume world.
Funnily enough, a film critic on Twitter told me that, in their opinion, there is no-one alive today in the *movie world* who can write like him either. I thought that was rather nice. Chalk one up for the perfume world over the film one.
I‘m re-reading it now, while waiting for my train at Frankfurt airport train station – fellow waiting passengers are already ogling me strangely. The reason might be my bubbling, uncontrolled laughter again and again…
LT should write more often, and it doesn‘t neccessarily need to be about parfum !
I’ll be getting it in paperback Thank you .
Immediately ordered the book as I was unaware it was actually out, so thank you for the heads up. Your inclusion of TS’s excruciatingly honest and well-written comment had me nodding my head in agreement. I can’t wait for the book to arrive, and being forewarned will be wearing a bib. I am one who has no patience for marketing hype and I totally agree with Mr. Turin’s response to judging expensive artisan products on an equal basis because “..this is no longer a Crafts Fair.” A BIG yes to that one.
As for sharing your own perfume journey and opinions in public with intelligent consumers searching for informed (and generous) opinion, Kafka, never doubt your value. I credit your reviews with inspiring the purchase of over half my present scent collection. Many of which I never would have had the opportunity to become acquainted with without your expertise. Your informed commentary has been the foundation for me to move forward and explore new scent territory. I thoroughly enjoy your articles that offer insights into the industry, individual perfumers, composition ingredients, history, food and so much more. During your absence I truly missed your writing and I am overcome with a childlike glee when an email announcing a new blog post from you descends from the cloud to my inbox.
As you can see, I can no more contain myself to pithy, measly sentences to express my thoughts than you can! So please continue to offer your thoughts, and just know many of us out in cyber space are deeply appreciative.
Ha @ the “pithy, measly sentences” bit and how you’re as unable to contain yourself as me. 😀
Thank you for the kind words, support, and encouragement, my dear. There are a multiplicity of factors that make blogging less appealing and more like root-canal for me these days. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it as I once did, and I’m not merely talking about the frequency of reviews.
In addition, while I realize that the vast majority of people want reviews of the latest new niche releases (for very understandable purchasing reasons), I’m really not inclined that way any more. Some of it has to do with the frustrations with niche or the industry which Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez referenced in their book, some of it pertains to completely separate matters, like my aromachemical sensitivities, boredom, apathy, being rarely swept off my feet, and more. And all of that is wholly separate from the exhausting nature of my testing and writing approaches as well as more behind-the-scenes issues involving blogging, fragrance criticisms, constant dissection, etc. etc.
There are so many different, sometimes unrelated factors at play and they’ve all built up into something where, at this point, I’d almost prefer a root-canal or to read the dreadful Tax Code than write fragrance reviews and blog. The book review and the giveaway posts may well be a temporary blip or exception to things, but we’ll see.
Regardless, a very warm hug from me to you for your caring support and encouragement. Thank you.
This was as much fun to read as the guide itself, which I also devoured in one sitting. I admire LT’s work, though I don’t necessarily share his taste. I don’t get the fuss over Miyako and, like you, I adore Ambre Loup.
When I read the first guide I was new to this world of scents. I approached the new one much better armed with information, preferences, and opinions. I couldn’t wait for the paperback, but will purchase it now just the same
Your point about your state of knowledge the first time around versus this one applies to many people, I think. It certainly applies to me. It also raises an interesting point that I hadn’t considered about before now: the degree to which some of the backlash this time (versus reactions ten years ago) may be influenced by the fact that people are now much more informed and also much more exposed to a variety of different brands, styles, scents, and houses than they were ten years ago.
To put it another way, it was thanks to Luca Turin, Tania Sanchez and their first book that so many of us learnt about both niche houses and more technical aspects of perfumery but has some of that heightened knowledge permitted some people to be more critical of the new book? Whereas many people once took their words as the ultimate final decision or judgment, now some people might be inclined to be *more* critical of their assessments because of the perfume revolution in scent blogging, perfume sites, endless perfume discussions and groups — all things which they, in part, helped to trigger with their first book?
Obviously, it’s separate from the more emotional, defensive responses concerning some small houses receiving scathing reviews because I think that would have happened even back in 2008 had the original Guide been that critical of the tiny indies.
I’m talking about something else, though: the democratization of perfume criticism and proliferation of online blogs/scent groups by the average, common perfumista, such that the authors are no longer held to be quite so inviolate and sacred in some people’s eyes. For the people or groups expressing not just outrage but rather *personal* condemnation, the authors are no longer the sacred cows that they once might have been and that might stem indirectly from the revolution in scent discussion, fragrance groups, and blogging which they helped to initiate. It’s an interesting point or possibility to ponder.
I bought the paperback version last Friday. Then with the discount for Kindle version, I bought the Kindle book and spent my weekend for the book. I am quite disappointed that Ambre Loup was rated 2 * and Hiram Green did not sent his sample to LT for review.
As your true fan for last 2 years, after read your review, I blindly bought Kalemat, Dilettante, Salome, Ambre Loup, Smolderose, Selperniku and Dryad. I am totally happy with my choices.
As I live in Vietnam, it is very hard for me to test by my self and order sample. Your reviews gave me a lot confident to blindly buy perfumes.
Regarding new Perfumes The Guide 2018, could you please kindly review some/all 5* perfumes. Especially, Miyako. Since I love osmanthus scent so much, I am really waiting for your detailed review on this.
So thankful that you come back after long time no review from you.
You’re very kind, thank you. I have to tell you that I think it’s quite unlikely that I’ll review some or all of the Five Stars in the book. I doubt I will be returning to writing fragrance reviews on a constant, regular basis as I once did. It used to be every two days, for example, and that’s just not going to happen!
When I do post something, it may well be about vintage or maybe it will be about some brand new release which caught my attention. Miyako does interest me (as does another Auphorie), but right now, writing detailed, thorough or exhaustive fragrance reviews or going through the Guide’s Five Stars is not high on my agenda. We’ll see but there is just too much other stuff I’m dealing with in real life at the moment.
I was reading this reply and noticed the mention of an Auphorie composition which has caught your interest. I fell in love with Mayura and instantly purchased it after a BN split. It was out of stock for a bit, and when it returned I got a backup bottle. There is a brief comment (forget where) that the second formulation had a bit less of the animalic and was a bit heavier on the woody elements. I will be doing an arm by arm comparison to see if my impressions are similar. Whatever the result, Mayura performs excellently in my skin and is a stunner in warm, humid weather.
Yup, Mayura was the other one, so thank you for sharing your experiences, thoughts, and love. Right now, I’m currently living in the 1930s with a vintage head-turner that is like vintage Mitsouko extrait met vintage Opium extrait. Doing a review would involve a massive amount of work on the different concentrations, bottles, packaging and the many decades of variations therein, but that’s one which I might be writing about next because it owns my heart lock, stock, and barrel.
I will look forward to that immensely, as a good bit of my heart is owned by vintage and I just….can’t….let go.
Oh, now I’m dying to know what vintage lovely that is.
I was always told, first by my Dad, God rest him and then by a mentor, Jean Amic, to always have an opinion about something. God, bad, wrong but make it yours and live with it. Cannot wait to get my grubby mitts on this book. Thanks
My two old Turin and Sanchez guide books, Perfumes The Guide 2008 hardcover, and the 2009 A-Z Guide are so dog eared and scribbled in the margins from endless readings. I bought the new Perfumes The Guide on my Kindle because I was so impatient to start it. I have only read Tania’s intro, and a few reviews, because I find the paper version so much more satisfying. I have on order the paperback and I hope it gets here soon. I have learned so much from those two. And I think my appreciation of their work led me to reading Kafkaesque and learning even more. Thank you for championing their work. Their books have made me laugh so much and when Luca writes a 5 star review, it is a beautiful thing. And since their first book, I have tried to sample every 5 star perfume while reading the review. This is the same thing I do when you love a perfume, Kafka. When you love a perfume, I make sure I try it and read your review while wearing it. Whether I agree or not on its rating, I always learn so much. The exploration of fragrant creativity is one of my favorite thing about perfumes.
BTW, for your next perfume party, why not make The Guide the theme and have your guests sniff any of the ones LT/TS have written about which you have in either bottle or sample form? You can read out the reviews as people sniff. And you can read out some of the funnier reviews even if you don’t have samples/bottles. I think it would be a hoot.
I love your review! And I am def inspired to order the book, and a copy for my ONE irl perfume-obsessed friend. I just don’t want to support Amazon…
Thanks for this post and good to see you back. I enjoyed their last guide immensely, so have ordered this one too after reading your entertaining review!
Thank you for this–I knew that a new Guide had been released in e-book format, but I didn’t realize that the hard copy was already out. Like you, I’m not a huge fan of e-books and I don’t own a Kindle, so I was waiting patiently for the “real” book to become available. I just ordered it and am looking forward to devouring it with my own glass of wine (or, er, perhaps a martini, if there are as many one- and two-star reviews as you say!).
The online furor over this book surprised me. I’ve followed several discussions on various message boards and I can’t believe some of the vitriol expressed there. Yes, Mr. Turin and Ms. Sanchez have a certain…way with words. They’re very blunt, but I find that style exceedingly entertaining to read. My copy of the previous Guide has been loved to death because those reviews never, ever get old; I find myself pulling it out every now and then just to re-read my favorites. Sure, we don’t always see eye to eye–for example, Mr. Turin dismissed my teenage crush, Guerlain’s Champs Elysees–but I don’t take it personally. I respect his and Ms. Sanchez’s [very informed] opinions, but at the end of the day, they’re just that–opinions. More people would do well to keep that in mind, I think.
One of the main bones of contention I’ve seen has been, as you mention, the fact that the new book includes tons of niche fragrances and pulls no punches even with smaller, fledgeling houses. Personally speaking, I’m really excited about so many niche fragrances being included because these are the ones I’m most curious about at this point. The last Guide was mostly designer/mainstream, so I’m glad niche is getting a turn now; plus, there’s always time to review and re-review (in the case of older releases) more mainstream fragrances in subsequent editions. I also don’t have a problem with the same brutal honesty being applied to all perfume brands, tiny or large, because I too feel that if you’re going to play ball with the big kids (and price yourself accordingly), you’ve got to be held to the same standard. There is an ungodly amount of new perfume releases each year and it feels like it’s getting bigger and bigger, and a lot of that is, well, not that interesting. I want to know this before I shell out $3/$4/$5 for a sample. Even sampling is time-consuming and gets expensive; anything that can help a person make an informed decision on which ones to pursue is a good thing.
Which brings me to your reviews. While reading Mr. Turin’s and Ms. Sanchez’s succinct, biting prose is highly enjoyable, I do rely more on detailed reviews to inform my sampling and buying. Your reviews are ones that I always seek out if I’m curious about a certain perfume because you are *thorough* and I can count on you to tell me everything I ever wanted to know about it! I’m not that great about picking out individual notes and I go more on the mood that a perfume evokes, so it’s really helpful to me that you speak not only about the technical aspects but also the picture painted by that scent. The information you always include about the performance is valuable too, because that’s an important factor in what I choose to buy–while I love the heavy-hitters, not everything I own has to have the ability to fumigate an entire city block but I do require that it be fairly long-lasting. (I’m kinda cheap; I feel cheated if I shell out $100+ for something that stays with me for only a couple of hours.) You tell us about all these things, plus where to buy it and what others have said about it, and it’s obvious that you put a lot of thought and time into what you write. Especially now at a time when perfume blogging seems to be on the downswing and it’s getting harder and harder to find quality reviews, I want you to know that your efforts are truly appreciated.
I’m really touched that I could have been of some help over the years, so thank you for your kind words.
BTW, I don’t think you’re being “kinda cheap” to expect some longevity or performance from a fragrance which costs $100+. (More like $200+ these days since $100 for a niche scent is practically “a giveaway” by today’s crazy, skewed pricing standards.) I think it’s a completely normal, understandable, and justified expectation. I mean, we’re not talking peanut prices here! I had a good chuckle, btw, at your: “not everything I own has to have the ability to fumigate an entire city block.” LOL! I’m laughing again just re-reading it. 😀
And you’re right, there really IS an “ungodly amount of new perfume releases each year and it feels like it’s getting bigger and bigger.” It can be quite overwhelming at times, can’t it? There are more and more new houses every year but also more releases per year from some individual houses as well (e.g., Tom Ford, Roja Dove, PG, etc.). It feels as though there is so much being thrown at us every month. And, as you noted, the cost of sampling can really add up.
Thanks for coming back online. I really missed reading—you!
Aww, thank you!
Thank you dear K. for this thoughtful and obviously needed review (and the hilarious quotes), LT and TS couldn’t wish for a better review imho, or for a more qualified reviewer! Needless to write, I immediately downloaded it (paper will follow) and besides it being perfect escapism, and an excellent generator for pleasure hormones, it helped me through a fairly sleepless night as the weathergods in Europe are playing tricks on us, too hot and too dry (and I am living in the driest and most wooded part of the Netherlands )-:). It may even rekindle my interest in perfume (and LT gave one of my most loved perfumes one star, but not because it was boring, overpriced or technically inferior, I think he just genuinely dislikes it very much). A. sends GS hugs (she had a bad nailbed infection, fortunately AB seems to help for now). Lastly, again, so good to see you back!
Ha, what was the scent that you loved and he hated?
I’ve heard about the dreadful weather in Europe, including in the NL, right now. I hope things change for you soon and that you get some rain. A friend of mine in Bologna Italy has a somewhat different problem than dryness: brutal humidity. She says she gets practically soaked through with sweat the minute she steps foot outside. I feel for all of you.
Please give Her Royal Hairiness a hug, nose boop, and paw kisses from me. Also, her transatlantic boyfriend extends a regal paw to his beloved.
A. is very pleased with that warm and respectful transatlantic attention, something she has been missing somewhat coming from the US of late….
April Aromatics Agartha! Banana icecream with cilantro according to LT, ‘one of the least pleasant accords it has been my duty to rewiew’, but he really tries to be civil about it and sort of apologises as he likes some of her other perfumes. I think my tastes differ quite a bit from him, Miyako was a complete scrubber on me, and a stubborn one at that. Hugs and my thoughts are with you. Thank you for your better weather wishes!
Thank you Kafka for the great review of this divisive and essential book! I too downloaded it on day one and ripped through it in one 3 hour marathon. Whether one agrees, disagrees, or is ambivalent about their reviews, they are master wordsmiths and experts at the pithy one-liners and snark. Some of the reviews seemed cruel to me, and made me squirm, but I realize that with criticism, you “pay yer money and you take yer chances”. i DO know a few of the small perfume houses whose business was directly and adversely effected by the one-star reviews and as a lifetime small business owner, that makes me sad. I also only write reviews of scents I like/connect with, and I’ve taken some flack for that, but hey…you can’t swing a cat (or dog) without hitting a perfume reviewer, so there’s always someone who will disagree in print or increasingly on youtube.
SO happy to read your reaction to the dreaded Black Opium. I place it right up there with La Vie Est (not so) Belle on my list of gag-worthy scents, and yet I know folks who love it. Go know.
I almost have Ron convinced that it’s time for a new yellow lab; it’s been 4 years since Sadie passed and I need that canine energy in our house once again! xoxo -Robert H.
My dear Kafka, I followed your advice on not drinking wine while reading the snark but I did snort out my tea.
I am definitely getting this when my bitthday comes. I think what sets TS’s and LT’s snark apart is that it’s born out of genuine passion (and endless knowledge) rather than the snobbism of a poseur. Although I am glad there seems to be quite a few of us in the comments on the #teamAmbreLoup.
Even if one is confused as to their selection of fragrances, reading people’s opinions on other scents, including some you’ll never smell, still helps you form your own, in a « you can think that with perfume??? » way. Like your reviews, by the way- in and of itself, they’re an encouragment to think deeper about the perfume at hand. This is invaluable. (And a big reason why any review of yours is welcome, no matter how hard to find the perfume in question is).
I hope you and the German are well!! I thought of you earlier this week when I got a vintage, Bell jar Chergui (my second vintage, pre-IFRA Chergui, but one can’t have too many). One of the perfumes that made me fall in love with the whole business, thanks to your review.
(Lastly- dogs, food, law, politics AND perfume?! Your twitter is heaven)
So nice to see you back! I don’t recall if I ever mentioned that I printed your Best of post before I left for Barcelona back in December for a short vacay. As luck would have it, I ran out of ink towards the end but it was still legible as the printer was able to eke out the red. It made for a pleasant reading on the way there and I also shared it with a friend who happened to sit next to me. She knew about my interest in perfumes and was game to read it. Her reaction was “Good God, who is this man or woman?” to which I said “There is no one like Kafka. If you are interested in a perfume and Kafka happened to have reviewed it, you will get the unvarnished opinion, good, bad or ugly.”
I downloaded the Guide when it first came out and went right to see if there was a rating for Puredistance Opardu and indeed it’s there with 4 stars! I don’t have the patience to read this in order and have been randomly flitting Ina no out. I will call the writing informed snarkiness.
Thank you for offering us the opportunity to win sample fragrances on our wish list. l am also excited to hear Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez have written another book. I purchased and wear the original Missoni by Missoni as my signature perfume after reading the review in the 2008 Luca Turin Perfume Guide. Good luck to all!
Hi K! Just checked in to see if you had posted lately and oh my. Lol. Thanks Hope you are having a fabulous summer. We just had 15″ of rain this past week. I am interested in “The Guide” of course.
I’ve been slowly getting back into sampling when I can.
Back in December I moved to my present location, next to wonderful neighbors and one day I had used her bathroom where she had (this is where I almost succumbed to the vapours) a big ole bottle of YSL OPIUM from the early 90s by the look of the packaging. Whenever she and her husband wluld travel she’d buy a big edp. Funny her daughter detests it. There is a miniscule amount left though. On the other hand my friend had her birthday in the beginning of July and I asked her what she wanted- Black Opium. I didn’t say anything as it was what she wanted. God awful crap.
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Stalking the site once I saw the discussion light up on some silly, unnamed, site has paid off. I miss your voice when it’s gone. I understand why, but still.
Much in the same way that I own & enjoy Gris Clair for the exact reasons you hate it, but still respect your input, I can accept that they didn’t enjoy Ambre Loup and still smile contentedly when I wear it all winter long. Though I did fist pump at the ratings for a few (MEM, my beloved)
There are two reason to enjoy reviews for me: finding a new thing I have not smelled, and seeing what someone else thought of something I have.
What I cannot understand is why this former should offend instead of excite people?
I mean, the number of things I bought based on your reviews alone, from brands I’d never heard of . . . Thanks for that, actually!
And hip hip to that line about the arts & crafts fair. I understand that they don’t have the PR budget to counter the noise, but if you want to run your prices up there with the big kids, pull up your big kid underpants and be ready to roll with the punches.
I am sad to hear you won’t be reviewing much, but you’ve provided us so much FREE expertise and entertainment and, in the case of this reader, basically singlehandedly caused my perfume obsession, so thank you. I hope we will see you on the Internet sometimes. But this is coming from someone who has had to retreat from the neverending torrent of negativity and awful political news himself…
But onto the book! My reaction was pretty much the same as yours – I laughed, I cried, I winced (a lot)!
For some reason I had got the impression you didn’t care for Mr. Turin as a critic, but I’m glad to know it’s mainly a disagreement about perfume styles. I agree with most of his ratings, of course, only having smelled a small fraction of the scents in the book.
Some of my favourites got savaged -Marlou was a new addition that got torched, but I don’t care, a boy needs a filth bomb to wear to the bi-annual bathhouse visit – and I certainly still love their scents. I can’t believe the controversy over this book! But I am new to the perfume world.
I do hope you and HRH stay happy, healthy, and wise.
Very useful review of the book. I have a 15% off code from B&N so I think I’ll pick this up this weekend.
Thank you for reviewing this book. I feel very much the same way about it as you do, and I’m so grateful that LT and TS keep writing about perfume.
I also wondered about the Eau Sauvage Parfum review. I think the Gucci Guilty pour Homme Absolu review provides a clue. LT describes how terrific it smells and at the same time laments that it smells like “one millisecond” of a great Guy Robert cologne “stretched out to last a couple of days…a Madame Tussaud’s version of a masculine: handsome, no conversation.”
In other words, I think some of the 3-stars admit that the fragrance smells damned good on a guy, especially considering the alternatives among modern fragrances, and yet is so much less than what a great perfumer could compose in past decades.
I would personally give higher marks to Eris and 4160 Tuesdays than they did, and I adore Diaghilev.
Thanks for all you do, Kafkaesque!
Hello! I was confused because LT and TS referred to Black Opium as a fruity floral. But I thought it was a gourmand? Do you think it was a typo? I’d love your thoughts. Thanks! A