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The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York | [Chandler Burr]

The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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' perfume business and challenge le monster of the industry, best-selling 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.

©2007 Chandler Burr; (P)2008 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Exhilarating....An unusually grounded depiction of a business built largely on artifice." (Kirkus Reviews)
"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (158 )
5 star
 (46)
4 star
 (54)
3 star
 (44)
2 star
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1 star
 (3)
Overall
3.7 (91 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
3.7 (90 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Tracy Oxnard, CA, United States 01-29-11
    Tracy Oxnard, CA, United States 01-29-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "French didn't bother me"

    I studied Spanish, so I'm not bothered by the French. The book was interesting, and I'm glad I listened to it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shari whittier, CA, United States 12-28-09
    Shari whittier, CA, United States 12-28-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    "Escape into a new world.."

    I finished this book and wanted to run out and create "the perfect scent". This book touches on various areas, both human and commercial within the perfume industry. Simultanously objectively investigative and lovingly "inside" the business makes for an educational, but fun listen. There's some science, some business, and some "People Magazine" aspects that kept my interest.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Decatur, GA, USA 04-04-10
    Catherine Decatur, GA, USA 04-04-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Well done book that needed a different narration"

    Enjoyed the book tremendously but had a hard time ignoring incorrect pronunciations. For example, The term chypre is pronounced 'sheep ra' not 'kyp ra.' This is a basic term in perfumery.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thierry Santa Monica, CA, USA 04-19-08
    Thierry Santa Monica, CA, USA 04-19-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Awful narration"

    Mel Foster's narration is awful due to his complete ignorance of the French language and his laughable pronunciation of common French words, let alone French poetry or fragrance terms. Too bad because the book itself is excellent.

    7 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pilates Penny Queens, New York USA 04-23-14
    Pilates Penny Queens, New York USA 04-23-14

    Avid Reader :)

    ratings
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    Performance
    Story
    "OMG they couldn't find a bilingual narrator?"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I recc getting the book. The narrators abuse of the French language is more than egregious.

    Who made that call?


    What other book might you compare The Perfect Scent to and why?

    The story is fascinating just get the book.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Yes, the story is great even though my ears bled from listening to the bad French.


    Any additional comments?

    Bilingual narrators do exist. Pls find them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zorglub 05-26-12
    Zorglub 05-26-12
    ratings
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    6
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    Story
    "Dull"

    Glimpse of an industry I know nothing about. Too many lists of chemicals. Not much of a plot. Characters not very captivating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cookie Anacortes, WA, United States 10-27-11
    Cookie Anacortes, WA, United States 10-27-11 Member Since 2011

    Cookie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Extreme Marketing"

    This industry has a long and distinguished history. And the marketing gurus are masters. But the truth is that this industry and the world of high fashion is so far removed from my real life (I haven't purchased perfume in 20 years), that I had a very hard time listening to the whole book. If you are interested in the marketing and historical aspects and can suspend disbelief cc the product, there is a lot to be gained from this very interesting book. If you are into the lifestyle and understand the culture of stars and if you care about their world, you will enjoy it all the more. For me it is much adieu about not very much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer TALLAHASSEE, FL, United States 04-08-14
    Amazon Customer TALLAHASSEE, FL, United States 04-08-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    105
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    "Great information, poor language"

    Let me start by saying that I had just finished "The Secret of Chanel No. 5" by Tilar Mazzeo when I read this book, and that audiobook turned out to be a great segway for this one. The Chanel book was a lot more biographical, while this one delved into the closed-door realm of the perfume industry - its tricks, strategies, financial structure, scientific methods, and marketing. Chandler Burr follows the creation of two perfumes including Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely from start to finish.

    This was an extraordinary work in terms of the amount of research that went into it, and I thought that most of the writing was very well done. Chandler Burr did a magnificent job of presenting the facts of the industry without forgetting to present the art of it. He has a delightful off-the-cuff style that balances what could have been an overly serious take on the creation of perfume. He offers a lot of insight, but he also allows the listeners to create their own perceptions of the industry and the science and marketing behind it.

    This book did not receive a perfect Overall score from me because it included unnecessary foul language that distracted from the material. The occurence of these terms are somewhat sparse, but I would say that they appear about 15-20 times throughout the book. I find the use of these terms (the F-bomb, profanity) to be tacky, distracting, and out of place in what could have been a five-star work. There are also descriptions of some scents that, while they do exist in nature and are used in the industry, I could have lived without knowing about. I didn't subtract stars for that because those scents are part of the perfumery world, but I subtracted stars for foul language that could and should have been omitted.

    Beyond the language, this would be a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in perfume, how it is made, how it is marketed, and how much it really costs in terms of money, time, and resources. Just be warned that after hearing about certain scents that are used to create perfume, you may never be able to wear some of your favorites again.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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