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The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur [Hardcover]

Jean-Claude Ellena
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 July 2012

The French bestseller The Diary of a Nose is the story behind the creation of a perfume, from the head perfumer at Hermès.

Perfume creation is an exclusive and secretive endeavour. What is day to day life like for a perfume-maker? How does the creation of a new scent begin? How do you capture the essence of a smell on the skin?

For one year, Jean-Claude Ellena kept a diary of his life as 'parfumeur exclusif' ('le nez' or 'the nose') for Hermès. Believing that creating a scent is like creating a work of art, and describing himself as a writer using 'olfactory colours', he explains how all of the five senses come into play when creating a perfume. He also reveals how inspiration can come from a market stall, a landscape, or even the movement of calligraphy, and concludes this charming, perceptive diary with recipes for natural fragrances, each made up of three synthetic ingredients, to create the illusion of smells like freesia, orange blossom, grapefruit, pear, chocolate, cashew and cotton candy.

This is the story of a quest to capture what is most elusive. Jean-Claude Ellena offer readers a rare insight into the secrets of his business, his art, and his life as one of the world's most important and admired perfumers.

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The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur + Le Snob: Perfume + The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Particular Books (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846145597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846145599
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 307,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Diary of a Nose explores the conundrums of his profession with the delicacyof an olfactory poet (The Wall Street Journal)

Jean-Claude Ellena has always played the fragrancegame as high art (Fréderic Malle Editions de Parfums)

Based on a year's worth of notes from the author's notebook, 'Diary of a Nose' aims to seduce (Metro)

In Diary of a Nose is the rarest of books. In it we sense that Jean-Claude Ellena appreciates the world with the passion and attention of an artist (Elle)

The man is a magician, a nose, a parfumuer ... His journal reveals in simple words a real secret: the creation of perfumes. Day by day, every emotion, every encounter, every precious moment is preserved. Here, everything is customary but nothing is ordinary, for this is where the magic happens (Le Monde)

More than a chemist or composer, I'd call Ellena a poet (Suzi Feay Independent)

Ellena's diary of the 12 months from October 2009 is sensual, serious (Carl Wilkinson Financial Times)

About the Author

In 2004, Jean-Claude Ellena was made Hermès' first 'perfumeur exclusive' at Hermès. He lives and works in the hills in Grasse in France, and designs his scents at his studio in Cabris.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete revelation, loved it! 19 Oct 2012
By trishthedish VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This has to be one of the most sensual books I've ever read in my life, and its about perfume. I have never read anything so sensual in my life as this, not poetry, not erotica, not anything. The authors desribes smells with the colours of a true artist and his sensitivity to words as well as smells, in fact to almost everything around him is extremely, beautifully hightened. I could read it just for this wonderful writing style alone, so beautiful it almost makes you want to weep. I rushed out and hung around the local perfume counter for some time after this, sad but true, it cost me money, but I felt I knew more than many of the sales assistants by the time I got to the end of this book. Brilliant, heady stuff - read it if you love perfume and / or you love beautifully sensual writing that will blow your mind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smell is a pleasure,perfume is literature 30 April 2013
By the lambanana TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The diary of a nose.

The life of a parfumeur must have elaborate prose. To describe in such an elegant way what goes into the smells and fragrances of what is essentially smelly expensive water.

It's a bit like listening to a fashion expert describe clothes. Fascinating, but ultimately they are still clothes.

What did surprise me most of all is the author, Jean-Claude Ellena, is obviously French. To capture the poetry of the original French text is amazing. The translator should certainly be commended.

I rather like the authors turn of phrase. It doesn't surprise me though, as if you had to describe why you like your aftershave or perfume most people would simply say, "It smells nice" to at best, "it's a bit flowery"

But this author has had decades of being a "nose" so has gotten used to describing in elaborate, but lovely, prose the process and story behind a perfume.

If this has taken your fancy there is a lovely French best-seller that I could also recommend.Le guide du parfum pour elle et lui Or the film staring a nose.I Do (PrÍte-moi ta main) [DVD]

The author works in the epicentre of the perfume industry in Grasse in the South of France. I would warn you though that if the book has encouraged a visit-Don't. For such a glamorous, fragrant, expensive industry the town is rather drab.

Overall a lovely book that is a pleasant read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The poetry of perfume 20 Jun 2013
By Mrs. R.
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Jean Claude Ellena's book is less diary, more poetry meets philosophy. Yes, it does cover a year in his life, but not in a conventional way. There's a lot of blank paper. If Monsieur Elena's thought for the day lasts a few lines, that's what you get on the page. It's whimsical, creative, thought provoking, condfident and utterly French. The way a haiku represents a single thought in 17 syllables, Ellena's single thoughts take just as long as he wants them to.

I own some of his fragrances, from the full on blackcurrant blast of Yves Saint Laurent's In Love Again, to the light, clear recent Jardin creations for Hermes, and after seeing him in the BBC series Perfume I was fascinated to read about the way he works. (By the way, if you thought that Yves Saint Laurent had anything to do with his own perfumes, think again.) I think most creative artists dream of having the creative freedom and unconstrained budgets that Ellena has, and probably most of them dream of having his light clear way with words too.

Like his recent scents, this book has a lightness and clarity that gives us a deep insight into his life. He calls it A Year in the Life of a Perfumer, but I don't think it describes the life of any perfumer but himself. Very few have had the success to be able to create such a beautiful existence for themselves.

For people with some knowledge of perfumery, his list of 22 simple accords - one per page - at the back is worth the price of the book. For everyone else it must by a total mystery. For example: lilial and undecavertol make lime blossom. Sharing his knowledge is very generous of him. I just wish he'd write a whole book of those.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 23 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is such a nicely put together, beautiful, lyrical book. It is in the form of a diary, with some recipes for making your own perfumes at the end. It's written by the nose of Hermès, and since that is one of my favourite perfume houses*, I was delighted to have the chance to read this. I think it is a book with limited appeal, but if you are a perfume geek like me with a loathing for celebriscents, you will love it. It captures the poetry and yearning of true perfume art.

*My other favourites would be L'Artisan Parfumeur, Tom Ford, Bond No. 9, and maybe Demeter for novelty and inventiveness. If you want to smell something really interesting or beautiful, seek out fragrances from any of those.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nose by any other name...... 20 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A Year in the life of a Parfumeur
Jean-Claude Ellena
(Not to be confused with a short story by Gogol or an opera by Shostakovich)
A "Nose" is someone whose exceptional olfactory senses (sense of smell) makes them unique for the blending of fragrance oils to create inspired new fragrances / smells reproducibly.
These are the day by day observations of a creator of fine fragrances at the company Hermes over the period of one year covering his thoughts, feelings, emotions and his sources of inspiration as he creates new fragrances.
I come to this book as an organic industrial chemist who was involved, with the more "industrial" fragrance houses in perfuming household products and ensuring the stability of the "smell". This gives me a certain resonance with the subject but my experience was still a million miles from the creation of a fine fragrance. Just as knowledge of pigments and paint materials does not make one an artist (but is useful background knowledge), anyone could come to this book and be carried along by his daily thoughts and emotional responses to life and fragrance - a soul laid bare.
We start with a visit to his disorganised chaos of a studio at Cabris in the Grasse area near the Italian border.
We progress day by day through his development of projects, worldwide travel, many sources of inspirations and views of perfume development, changes in the market - all with a sense of humour and candour. As this is a translation, this has captured the spirit of the original well.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
This is a good read. The authors descriptions are very romantic sounding and you can really pick up on their passion for life and the things important to them in their life. Read more
Published 4 months ago by NRCM
5.0 out of 5 stars So good I had to give it away!
A wonderfully evocative treat for the senses.

Ellena's passion for scents, his family, life and women comes across as romantic and sensuous. Read more
Published 6 months ago by El Loro
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming book
This slim hardback is nicely designed with lots of white space, and trots along at a good pace, being in diary format. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ms. C. R. Stillman-lowe
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous journey in making a perfume
The title of the book says it all.It is not so much about the chemistry of perfume making, but the journey during that. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mahesh
4.0 out of 5 stars Pay no attention to the man behind the nose.
When I approached this book I had a pretty specific set of expectations: I'd read Patrick Suskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer a few years ago and I'd been fascinated with... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. Di Zendle
4.0 out of 5 stars another world
I'd seen this book reviewed a while back and thought it might appeal. An interesting glimpse into a world and a life so verydifferent from my own.
Published 9 months ago by buy-it-try-it
5.0 out of 5 stars A description of a beautiful way of experiencing the world
I found this book utterly intriguing. A slender volume of diary entries with a scattergun approach to content, the entries do not really reflect what the author was doing on the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
5.0 out of 5 stars A read which will tantalise all your senses
This book, written in diary format, is by the famous 'parfumer exclusif' Jean-Claude Ellena, who worked for Hermes. Read more
Published 10 months ago by S. A. Broadhurst
4.0 out of 5 stars A missive from the sensual world
Essentially this is the professional diary/notepad of the head parfumeur of Hermes; it gives an insight into his daily meetings and resopnsibilities; the precise way that he... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Straightforward
4.0 out of 5 stars Filling the senses.
The recounting of a perfumer's year could never be a somber affair. Light and airy with a full course meal in places when dealing with techniques of the field, this was... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jack Chakotay
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