What to read when you don’t have time to read anything? Turin and Sanchez somehow manage to pack a great deal of information and entertainment in each short paragraph of TheLittle Book of Perfumes. When you read a description of Thierry Mugler’s Angel which notes that it has “the same relation to your average sweet floral as the ten-story-high demonic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters has to your average fireside toasted sweet,” you know exactly what they’re talking about. Somehow, they have managed to make an esoteric world of bases and accords into an accessible and fun journey which takes in history but is not above a bit of pop culture either.
The book collects 100 favourite perfumes of the authors, the ones they consider classics. Its slim 107 pages are distilled from a longer, more exhaustive book. But credit to the publisher and designer, it is also a beautiful object in its own right, a small hardback in gold and black which perfectly reflects the elegance and refinement of its subject. This is one that I picked up in the bookstore because it looked so beautiful, and then started reading and ended up buying and taking home with me. I’m not a perfume aficionado, far from it, but I can’t wait to find a shop and find out whether Bulgari’s Black really does smell like hot rubber, or whether I can detect the tea base in Tommy Hilfinger’s Tommy Girl.
It’s a deceptively simple recipe – take two authors with an encylopaedic knowledge of and passion for their subject, who can also write (and have the all-important sense of humour), and tell them to go for it. But if it were really that simple, there would be many more books like this, and The Little Book of Perfumes wouldn’t be the rare gem that it is. Buy it, and I guarantee you’ll never look at perfume the same way again.