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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 (153 )
5 star
 (44)
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3.7 (86 )
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3.7 (85 )
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  •  
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 04-16-09
    Roy Beaumont, TX, United States 04-16-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Thoughtful Book"

    Chandler Burr deviates from his past books and approaches perfume differently in "The Perfect Scent." The New York Times perfume critic teaches the reader so much about scent, human nature, the perfume business and other interesting things that the book is hard to put down (or turn off as we listeners might say). This book is a glamorous travel travelogue through the industry and the development of scents.

    The most interesting story Burr follows is the development of a scent by Sarah Jessicah Parker. The detail, sensitivity to people and circumstances, and story telling ability are just great.

    Though Adam Gollner's "The Fruit Hunters" was different in approach, it makes an interesting companion listen to "The Perfect Scent." Where Burr informs about scent, Gollner approaches fruit and those who search the world for it.

    The book is well written and read. If you are unfamiliar with the fragrance industry and are looking for something that will inform as well as entertain - this volume just might be for you. Burr kept my ear lobes in his hands for hours!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. V. Deshaies VT, USA 08-12-09
    R. V. Deshaies VT, USA 08-12-09 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting insight, horrible narration"

    Like the others, I enjoyed learning about the "industry", particularly as Un Jardin sur le Nil is one of my personal favorites.
    However, the narrator's total lack of preparation to pronounce occasional French words and phrases is unforgivable. Not everyone knows foreign languages, but why not at least tutor him in what he needs to say? It was painful . . .

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 08-22-13
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 08-22-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Couldn't Finish It"

    I was attracted to this book because I have always loved perfume and fragrances and once thought of becoming a professional in the field. I had hoped that this book would allow me to vicariously enjoy the profession by learning more about the creation of a new scent.

    While this book accomplishes some of these goals, it is important to know what you are getting into before trying to listen to this book. This is certainly a "behind the scenes look" at the profession, but the narrative is about the business of creating a new perfume and the personalities that drive that process - rather than celebrating fragrances, why people are so driven to use fragrances, and how fragrances have been used throughout history by people around the world.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Houston, Texas 05-12-11
    Sam Houston, Texas 05-12-11 Member Since 2009

    Sam

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun and informative"

    I'm glad I didn't let the comments about the narrator's French pronunciation scare me way from buying this audiobook. The narrator has a soothing and clear voice. Often his French sounds like it comes through a mouthful of marbles, and sometimes it's downright wrong. If your best French is high school level, like mine, it won't bother you much. The book itself is fun and interesting.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ekaterina Houston, TX, USA 10-25-08
    Ekaterina Houston, TX, USA 10-25-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Super!!!"

    I loved this book because it is interesting and practical. No doubt that author has an expertise in this area. The book gave me an idea about the perfume industry from the insider's point of view. I learned about the interrelationship between the fashion houses, the process of perfume creation, and the money involved. Perfumers stay in the shade of brand names and celebrities, but they are the true artists behind our attraction to the "perfect" scents. It also listed the most famous perfumes, which I found very surprising. It described some of celebrities in relation to creating the scents. I love the "Sex&City" series, so I was happy to see Sara Jessica Parker outside the screen.
    Narration was very clear, very easy to listen to.
    If you want to know your perfume, this is a book for you!!!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JJGlass Canyon Lake in the Hill Country near Austin) TX, United States 10-21-11
    JJGlass Canyon Lake in the Hill Country near Austin) TX, United States 10-21-11 Member Since 2009

    jjglass

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I Really Enjoyed This Book"

    I find the making of perfume a very interesting topic but I never realized how complicated the creation, packaging, distrubution and maketing was until I listened to this book. It was 99% entertaining and informative with the one drawback of the reading of a few lists of compounds in a specific perfume. Had I been reading the print version I would have quickly scanned the list but having them read to me was more I needed to know. The sections dealing with the creation of the Hermes perfume "Gardens of the Nile" and the Sarah Jessica Parker celebrity scent "Lovely" were especially entertaining and enlightening.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wayne Cambridge, MD, USA 01-04-10
    Wayne Cambridge, MD, USA 01-04-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book, awful audiobook"

    I was pleased to see that I was not alone in appreciating Chandler Burr's outstanding book, which has me looking forward to being alone in my car, while deploring its narration. But indeed, the gargling sound that represents the narrator's attempts to render French text are grating beyond belief. They are included to capture the nuance for those of us who speak the language, but it was completely unintelligible, and I found myself just tuning out as much as possible and waiting for the English translation!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Lancaster, SC, United States 04-04-09
    Jane Lancaster, SC, United States 04-04-09 Member Since 2007

    2moresheep

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book, wrong narrator"

    Fascinating account of fragrance and the path from concept to the shelf. Hearing about the creation of a Hermes perfume by Jean-Claude Ellena was delightful. However, as mentioned in the previous review, the narrator made frequent errors in French pronunciation glaringly obvious even to one who has only had French in school. These errors distracted greatly from the listening experience--like fingernails on old-fashioned blackboard--and they occured almost every time he narrated anything in French. I finally gave up listening about half way through and got the book to read. Compare to Julia Child's and Marcella Hazan's recent biographies which contains a lot of, respectively, French and Italian, and were both pleasures to hear. I hope when Audible chooses future narrators, it will pay more attention to the narrator's fluency in whatever foreign language the book includes.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Boise, ID, United States 02-20-13
    Susan Boise, ID, United States 02-20-13 Member Since 2007

    I enjoy Scandinavian mystery and crime authors like Asa Larsson, Helene Tursten, Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum and Amaaldur Indridason just to name a few.

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    "Oh yes"

    I did like this book. I listened to this book while driving from Portland, OR to Boise. I sure know now a bit about the perfume industry. I'!m still not happy about paying so much for my Gucci.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Brunswick, TN, United States 02-04-12
    Robert Brunswick, TN, United States 02-04-12 Member Since 2011

    I wish Audible would provide a better product. I continually have to go back and try to find my place to listen. Audible apparently disables the ability to burn a book to even one disk so I can listen to it. The iPod just doesn't do well on audiobooks (probably unless you buy them from Apple). It is impossible to get a book burned to CD so I can listen to it and it never plays right on the iPod.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good, could have been better, well worth the time."

    This was a very interesting book on perfume, the making, marketing and enjoyment of it. I was fascinated by the details of perfume history, how it is developed and how it is marketed. Not being much of a tv watcher of "stories", I had no idea who Sarah Jessica Parker was, but am now a fan of hers (although I am still not sure who she is except I would recognize her perfume lines).

    Very well written, until Chapter 10, when he seemed to descend into crudeness, which I did not expect or appreciate and it kind of turned me off on the whole book. I am not going to apologize for not appreciating the crudeness, it was absolutely unnecessary.

    Some areas went into too much detail, but I as fascinated the New York Times has a "perfume specialist" and I will watch for his articles!

    This opened up a whole new world to me, which is what I enjoy about books like this.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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