Synopses & Reviews
From the New York Times perfume critic, a stylish, fascinating, unprecedented insider's view of an industry and its charismatic characters
No journalist has ever been allowed into the ultrasecretive, highly pressured process of originating a perfume. But Chandler Burr, the New York Times
perfume critic, spent a year behind the scenes observing the creation of two major fragrances. Now, writing with wit and elegance, he juxtaposes the stories of the perfumes--one created by a Frenchman in Paris for an exclusive luxury-goods house, the other made in New York by actress Sarah Jessica Parker and Coty, Inc., a giant international corporation. We follow Coty's mating of star power to the marketing of perfume, watching Sex and the City
's Parker heading a hugely expensive campaign to launch a scent into the overcrowded celebrity market. Will she match the success of Jennifer Lopez? Does she have the international fan base to drive worldwide sales?
In Paris at the elegant Hermès, we see Jean Claude Ellena, his company's new head perfumer, given a challenge: he must create a scent to resuscitate Hermès's perfume business and challenge le monstre of the industry, bestselling Chanel No. 5. Will his pilgrimage to a garden on the Nile supply the inspiration he needs? The answer lies in Burr's informative and mesmerizing portrait of some of the extraordinary personalities who envision, design, create, and launch the perfumes that drive their billion-dollar industry.
"New York Times perfume critic Burr (The Emperor of Scent) follows the creation of two new scents Un Jardin sur le Nil by French luxury house Herms, and Lovely, a celebrity fragrance by Sarah Jessica Parker in a kind of travelogue through the international perfume industry, 'one of the most insular, glamorous, strange, paranoid, idiosyncratic, irrational, and lucrative of worlds.' The former perfume was conceived by Herms, informed by a trip to Egypt, then crafted by Jean-Claude Ellena, who represents a breed of 'ghosts' known in the biz as perfumers. For the latter, Parker worked as artistic director of a corporate scent-making team. Burr illuminates perfumery's clash of cultures and values French artistic purity versus American commercialism. Worldwide, this highly secretive industry's PR machine propagates several anachronistic myths. For example, it insists that perfume ingredients are naturally derived (the overwhelming majority are not, because of concerns about quality control, ecological impact and allergies, among others) and that the big names on the bottles are personally involved in creating scents (perfumers alone typically do this; Parker was a rare exception). Burr makes a strong case that this mythmaking works to the industry's detriment, and that inviting the public behind the scenes might help to reverse the industry's declining sales. Burr's is a thorough and often hilarious account of perfumery's colorful characters, the science and art of fragrance creation and the human experience of scent itself." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Filled with fascinating revelations about an industry built on illusions . . . entices you to marvel all the more at the power of fragrance."--The Dallas Morning News
"The Perfect Scent has drama, unforgettable characters, history, and location."--Los Angeles Times
"An inside, Hollywoodesque account."--The New York Times Book Review
"Burr winds his way deep into the secretive, dark, high-stakes world of perfumery, where following the scent can be hazardous to your career. . . . He smells the story in each bottle."--Associated Press
"Passionate and captivating."--The Toronto Star
"An appealing writer and an acute observer, [who] tells his two stories well."--The Wall Street Journal
"Filled with fascinating revelations about an industry built on illusions."--The Kansas City Star
From the "New York Times" perfume critic comes a stylish, fascinating, unprecedented insiders view of an industry and its charismatic characters. Writing with wit and elegance, Burr juxtaposes the stories of two perfumes--one created for a luxury-goods house, the other made by a giant international corporation.
The Perfect Scent is the thrilling inside story of the global perfume industry, told through two creators working on two very different scents.
The Perfect Scent is the thrilling inside story of the global perfume industry, told through two creators working on two very different scents. The first is commissioned by the French luxury brand Hermés, and developed by a perfumer named Jean-Claude Ellena, who begins his search for the scent on the banks of the Nile. The second is a celebrity fragrance, developed in New York by movie star Sarah Jessica Parker and a team of perfumers from a global conglomerate. Chalder Burr, the New York Times's perfume critic, spent a year behind the scenes watching both creators at work. His thrilling narrative follows each scent from the initial concept to the worldwide launch. The Perfect Scent is the story of two daring creators, two very different scents, and a billion-dollar industry that runs on the invisible magic of perfume.
About the Author
Chandler Burr is the New York Times perfume critic and author of The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses and A Separate Creation. Burr, who earned a master's in international economics and Japan studies from the Paul H. Nitze School/Johns Hopkins, has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, U.S. News & World Report (where he was a contributing editor), and The New Yorker. He lives in New York City.