In order to do some research for an essay, I tried to get a bunch of perfume books from the Harvard library (rather, John tried to get them for me), but almost all of them were checked out. (Which one of yous is reading all the good perfume books??) Among those they did have were Essences and Alchemy by Mandy Aftel and The Scent Trail by Celia Lyttleton. The former seems pretty interesting if you're trying to get into natural perfumery, which I'm not; I'm looking for information on certain synthetic aromachemicals. The latter had no such info, but I decided to read it (or skim it, as I'm wont to do with most nonfiction) anyway.
The Scent Trail is an incredibly annoying book I never would have finished if I weren't obsessed with the subject. The premise is entirely contrived: Lyttleton decides to travel around the world gathering rare ingredients for a bespoke perfume and write a book about her experiences. (It's 100% clear that she pitched the idea for the book first and then went on the "journey"; she didn't do it for personal exploration and then decide to write a book.) After visiting a bespoke perfumer and a color expert, for some reason, she embarks on a long trip to see where the various materials she has chosen come from (e.g., neroli from Morocco, Damask rose from Turkey, nutmeg from Sri Lanka, vetiver from India, etc.) and how they are harvested and made into perfume.
The main issue I had with the book should be obvious by now: It's an offensively elitist approach to perfume. Having a custom fragrance made is expensive enough, but traveling around the world to hand-pick your materials is outrageously over the top. This could maybe be forgiven if some attempt were made to amend for it, if the journey were as much about learning about foreign cultures as it was about securing her materials, but at the end of every chapter it's painfully clear that all she cares about is how her suitcase smells when she gets back home.
Adding insult to injury, the writing is bad. See: "In my case smells transport me, literally." You might think this is a joke based on the fact that perfume motivated her many international flights, but no. She means that "iris takes me straight to the hills of Tuscany [...] and when I smell basil I am instantly reminded of the warmth of the sun that surrounds the Aegean islands." In other words, the same non-literal way that smells transport everybody else. She's also flaky and illogical. At one point she wonders if Coca-Cola gives you a small buzz because the formula contains nutmeg. o_O And she refuses to use synthetic musk in her scent because she doesn't even want a copy of a material whose harvesting used to cause animal suffering, but she insists on using real ambergris. (Both musk and ambergris can be obtained without harming the animal, but animals are sometimes harmed in the process anyway.) Also, the perfume, structurally, sounds like nonsense.
Anywayz. Next I'm reading Luca Turin's The Secret of Scent, which is more like perfume meets pop science.
SOTD: Cuir de Lancome.