Smell is the great leveller, because even if you are one of the unfortunate people who through birth or accident, lack the sense of smell, we still all smell ourselves, and the places around us, smell of something, to be stored in our memory and re-activated the next time we smell it, or even something a bit like it.
And as it says in the introduction, “that memory creator that unlocks the doors of emotions and memory.” No other sense has the power to transport you to any time and any place you have ever experienced or lived or even imagined.
This collection of essays, by different authors, explores every single avenue of perfume, not only the concept, production and mass consumption of, but also the history, the culture and the art of scent. Within its rich text and informative narrative, there lies a beautiful and new (to me) vocabulary, exposing delightful new words and phrases such as enfleurage, sillage, and supercritical CO2 extraction, which give the reader a whole new way of describing the way scent makes us feel, and how we process those feelings, and the biochemical building bricks of scent itself.
There are also wonderfully detailed chapters on the key figures in the scent trade and the current big-time players. My absolute favourite is the interview with Christopher Brosius, a former NYC cab driver and now, single note olfactory artist who started up CB I Hate Perfume, which says what scent should NOT be – “an arrogant slap in the face” and what it should- “an invisible portrait of who we are.”
Having endured too many cab rides with people wearing “awful, loud, nauseating and arrogant” perfume, he set out to make simple, evocative scents based, initially, from reading Collette.
This led to the creation of his best-selling perfume Dirt, a scent based on his memory of digging his garden. I know, this sounds like pretentious smoke and mirrors, but actually he talks great sense about scents, and says, “I’ve never believed the world needs more perfume- it just needs better perfume.” Here, here!