• The Perfect Scent

  • A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York
  • By: Chandler Burr
  • Narrated by: Mel Foster
  • Length: 12 hrs and 7 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (231 ratings)

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The Perfect Scent  By  cover art

The Perfect Scent

By: Chandler Burr
Narrated by: Mel Foster
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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

Critic Reviews

"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 listeners say about The Perfect Scent

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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!

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

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.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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!

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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!!!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

4 people found this helpful