An interesting thing happened to me yesterday: a very kind reader of the blog informed me that roughly 190 pages of a 254 page-length book that he recently purchased was taken from my writings on this free site. Not sentences, not paragraphs, but practically everything I’ve ever written on AbdesSalaam Attar was presented in its entirety. And the thief —Leonard Payne— actually confessed to all of it in his introduction!
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.
We all start somewhere when it comes to perfume, even masters of the craft like Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes who has been making fragrances for more than 20 years and is the indisputable doyenne of American natural perfumery. She, too, began somewhere, and she graciously took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her journey, as well as how she learnt about the building blocks of perfume-creation, her methodology, her favorite materials, her books, the world of food, and more. I’m extremely grateful for the glimpse into her world, and cannot thank her enough for patiently answering some very long questions. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.
- I’m very interested in people’s perfume journeys, particularly what it was like for a perfumer when they first started, especially someone with such vast knowledge as yourself. You were originally a therapist with degrees from the University of Michigan in Psychology and English. A 2005 profile article on you in SF Gate says that your practice “specialized in helping musicians, writers and artists realize their creative potential.” You even wrote a book in 1982 on one of the Rolling Stones entitled, “Death of a Rolling Stone: The Brian Jones Story.” Then, in the early 1990s, you started making fragrances. Was there anything beyond a general interest in scent and aromas that triggered the leap from being a therapist and published author to creating perfumes?
The holiday season is upon us and many of you have already started shopping for gifts. I thought I’d present a few ideas, whether it’s for the fragrance lover in your life, or merely an office coworker for whom you have to get a “secret Santa” gift. A few of my suggestions are suited for those who don’t even have a serious interest in perfume. For example, a book of poetry by 100 contemporary American poets who were each sent a different vial of unnamed perfume (ranging from Jo Malone to Tom Ford, Creed, Kilian or others), and then wrote a poem in response to the unknown scent.
As you will see, very few of my ideas have to do with buying actual perfume. I think it’s a truly terrible idea to gift someone fragrance unless you know them and their tastes extremely well or, ideally, have a precise shopping list of the exact perfumes that they want. Otherwise, it’s a potential disaster and, quite possibly, a huge waste of money. Given the vagaries of skin chemistry, you simply can’t know how a perfume bought blindly will actually turn out on their skin and if they’ll like it.
So, it’s far better to leave the choice up to them. For example, you can send an e-card, even on the day of Christmas if you’re a procrastinator who is truly behind schedule. Some people may see gift certificates as a sign of laziness or lack of thought but, for a perfumista, they’re the best thing ever! Even small amounts give one the freedom to sample new things, each a potential passage to olfactory Nirvana. Non-perfumistas might also enjoy certificates to places that sell luxury candles, men’s beauty products, or home fragrances. Or, you can go another route, and opt for fragrance-related things like books, foodie essences, or perfume-making kits. Here are a few suggestions.