Perfumes The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez


$30.99 $18.50

or make 4 interest-free payments of $4.63 AUD fortnightly with Afterpay More info

Add to wishlist

The GUIDE is the first major critical survey in English of the world of perfume, one bottle at a time. Rather than compiling lists of “notes" or "fragrance families," which can conceal more than they reveal, you’ll find—sometimes sharply worded, sometimes rhapsodic—opinions and descriptions that sort the good, bad, and ugly of roughly 1,800 individual fragrances, masculine and feminine, from the outrageously expensive to the cheap and cheerful.

There are also in-depth essays and supplementary material that cover the what, how, and why of fragrance. Ever wonder how perfumes are created? What they’re made of? Why they smell different over time? And why your favorite scent doesn’t smell like it used to?

Reviewers have compared the GUIDE's fragrance criticism to Pauline Kael's 5001 Nights at the Movies and Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste. Some read it aloud to dinner guests. Some have spent the grocery budget on perfume. Some have had copies stolen by co-workers. All agree—there’s no other guide to perfume like it.


Knowing (Estée Lauder)★ ★ ★ ★ ★ mossy rose $

Of all the big fruity roses from the seventies and eighties, Knowing is perhaps the most polished and most wearable. At the time, synthetic fruity rose materials like damascones and damascenones had changed the landscape of rose perfumes, making them bigger, brighter, stronger, practically glow-in-the-dark. The great idea of the rose chypres, beginning with the now-discontinued Sinan, was to set these intense materials against a classic resinous mossy base—rubies against green velvet—to make these mutant roses seem more civilized and less like the rose that ate Tokyo. The results were striking but sometimes exhausting in their power. Knowing (1988) came late in the game and learned the lessons of its ancestors: it piles on the mossy, woody stuff and lets the pink simply peek out. Worn in small doses, it’s just right. TS

J’Adore (Dior) ★ ★ ★ peachy rose $

When J’Adore was first released in 1999, it felt like a departure for Calice Becker, whose Tommy Girl was a fresh apple-tea floral that made every day feel like a morning after a rain. In contrast, J’Adore passed the snow glare of Becker’s usual floral style through an amber filter, via a beautifully dark candied-plum note. The fragrance went from golden sunset to purple dusk by coming surprisingly close in the drydown to the dark, incense-like rose of Parfum Sacré. I use the past tense because things have changed, perhaps because LVMH no longer simply buys the finished perfume oil from Givaudan but now makes part of it in house, under the management of François Demachy, formerly of Chanel. Today’s J’Adore is a perfectly nice peachy, soapy rose floral with none of its former late-afternoon glow. It smells like one of its own knockoffs. J’aime bien, mais j’adore pas. TS

No. 22 (Chanel) ★ ★ ★ ★sweet aldehydic $ $ $

No. 22 is above all an exercise in heavy lifting. Aldehydes are said to give “lift” to a fragrance, meaning they offset the sweetness and heaviness of whatever else is in there. Like its Antonov namesake, Chanel’s 22 goes for the maximum-payload record as follows: (1) Determine the largest dose of aldehydes a human can stand without fainting. (2) Load it up with as much sweetness as the aldehydes can bear. (3) Round it off with a note of iris to make it look easy. (4) Stand back and watch the whole thing lumber off into the sky after a three-mile takeoff roll. LT

Vera Wang for Men (Vera Wang) ★ soapy nightmare $

Smells like something that might be called Mountain Glen, which you’d plug into a wall socket. LT


“Ravishingly entertaining”

The New Yorker

“Dazzlingly good”

Sunday Times (UK)

“A revelation”


“As gripping as any thriller”

Daily Mail (UK)

“Very likely my favourite book of all time”

Joanne Harris, author Chocolat

“Provocative and hugely entertaining”

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Shocks with originality”


“Surprisingly absorbing ... Invaluable”


“An essential possession”

Book of the Week, The Evening Standard (UK)

“So entertaining, you don’t even have to like perfume”

The Denver Post

“Far more addictive than it has any right to be”

The Guardian (UK)

“I breathed in, rather than read, in one delighted gulp”

Hilary Mantel, author Wolf Hall

“Arrestingly honest, passionately poetic”

Grazia (Australia)

“Astonishingly brilliant and witty companion to all things fragrant”

Spectator (UK)

“A cracking good read”

The Daily Telegraph (UK)

“Stylish, erudite and hilarious”

Dallas Morning News

“Bigoted, snarling, monomaniacal, subjective, triumphalist, and quite magnificent”

Prospect (UK)

“Brash, opinionated, and wickedly funny”

Orlando Sentinel

“My favorite book of open-sky criticism this year”

Paper Cuts (NY Times book blog)

“As if a light has been switched on in a murky room”

Philip Hensher, author The Northern Clemency

“A wake-up call for the nostrils”

The Independent (UK)

“No one should visit a counter without it”

Vogue UK

Recently Viewed Products