THE PERFUME LOVER by Denyse Beaulieu


A Personal History of Scent
Email this review


A memoir and ambitious tour of the perfume world by a Quebec-raised Parisian fragrance writer.

“Memories are the ingredients of perfume-making,” writes Beaulieu (Gas Bijoux, 2010, etc.). At the heart of this book is the story of her collaboration with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour to translate one of her most voluptuous memories into a perfume. Beaulieu mixes juicy personal anecdotes and lush descriptions with an introduction to the history, techniques, industry and culture of the perfume world. She demonstrates how perfumers think about the components of fragrance and how scents can be combined to create complex perfumes that develop through layers and interact with individual chemistry as a form of ephemeral art. For example: “The honeyed melon sprinkled with mandarin, bergamot and clove exhaling a tender jasmine breath; the spiced rounded plum kissed with green tartness; the radiance that keeps unfurling until the dark moss and leather base, anchored to the skin by a warm, creamy base as the jasmine deepens into over-ripe fruit….” Beaulieu also discusses the scents of human secretions and fossilized hyrax urine and does not shy away from perfumes that evoke old ashtrays and cured horse manure. Despite a few stumbles into cliché and kittenish vanity, the overall effect of the writing is seductive, intelligent, friendly and down-to-earth. One flaw is that the book lacks a strong narrative structure; it rambles and circles around. The central story vanishes for as much as a few chapters, and readers may wonder when the collaboration with Duchaufour will reappear. However, it does come around again, and its significance ultimately finds illumination.

For knowledgeable perfume lovers, serious novices and those who love an entertaining expert introduction to an arcane subculture.

Pub Date: March 19th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-02501-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2012


NonfictionTHE SECRET OF CHANEL NO. 5 by Tilar J. Mazzeo
by Tilar J. Mazzeo
NonfictionCOMING TO MY SENSES by Alyssa Harad
by Alyssa Harad
NonfictionA NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES by Diane Ackerman
by Diane Ackerman