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The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell [Paperback]

Luca Turin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 May 2007

'Meet Luca Turin, a renegade scientist and perfume critic with an extraordinary sense of smell.' Newsday

Funny, irreverent and passionate, The Secret of Scent opens the lid on two worlds - the glamorous and highly lucrative realm of the perfume makers, and the equally rivalrous domain of smell science.

Smell is our forgotten sense. Long neglected by science in favour of more prestigious areas of research, it's also barely understood in general life. At the core of our sense of smell lies an enigma: why do things smell the way they do? How is smell written into the molecules? This book is the story of the quest to solve this puzzle.

Luca Turin has been described in The Economist as 'a man with a powerful nose and a bizarre obsession with perfume.' Starting with a tour of the great perfumes and their gifted makers, he shows how few people have an idea of what perfume is or how it is made, let alone how smell works and what part it plays in other pleasures like food. But not everyone has ignored this powerful sense. A small band of mavericks has been trying to crack the code of smell for 70 years. Buiding on their work, Turin thinks he has succeeded. And like all good mysteries, the solution was all the while hidden in plain sight - in this case, right under our noses.

Frequently Bought Together

The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell + Perfumes: The A-Z Guide + Le Snob: Perfume
Price For All Three: 24.68

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  • Perfumes: The A-Z Guide 9.09
  • Le Snob: Perfume 7.19

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (17 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571215386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571215386
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Luca Turin is the man who perfume-lovers openly adore. He's the author of The Secret of Scent (Faber, 2006). His top-rated perfume is Guerlain's Mitsouko.

Product Description


"'The Secret of Scent may be a curiosity, but it is one that will have you smelling the silence of a snowy night.' Observer"

About the Author

Luca Turin was born in 1953 and educated in France, Italy and the UK. He holds a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of London and was for 10 years a tenured staff member of the French CNRS. He is the author of many scientific publications as well as a much-praised perfume guide. For seven years he was Lecturer in Biophysics at University College London. He now designs scent molecules for a US startup company, Flexitral, using the scientific process described in this book. He is the subject of an award-winning BBC Horizon documentary and a biography, The Emperor of Scent.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well, I wish I'd had Luca Turin teaching me chemistry! Here is a scientist, who is, to use that classic word generally associated with popular TV detectives 'a maverick' . He's outside the mainstream, passionate, committed, and charismatic. And a scientist. Maverick and scientist are made for the production of conflict AND excitement.

I'd concur with the reviewer who says this is all about molecular chemistry. Yes it is. But boring? Absolutely NOT. I have some layperson's chemistry, enough to edge my way through with a lot of wet towel to the head moments - but its true to say that if you are wanting something exciting about olfaction which is more for the lay reader, there are better books, Luca Turin's own Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, a delightful, witty encyclopaedia of perfumes past and present, Chandler Burr's biography of Turin, which is more completely friendly to the physics and chemistry naif The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession and the Last Mystery of the Senses, or, if your interest is in olfaction and its evolutionary development and effects on home sapiens the engaging The Scented Ape: The Biology and Culture of Human Odour. And if you can get hold of it Lyall Watson's fabulously readable Jacobson's Organ: And the Remarkable Nature of Smell

Back to Turin, and this book. He explains clearly and engagingly 'functional groups' from an olfactory perspective, is utterly engaging about molecular chemistry, finding ways to help the almost innocent to understand how odour can be analysed, not just by complicated machines (GC/MS) but, more excitingly within the nose itself. He explains current thinking, and the battles between those who say olfaction is due to molecular shape (particle) and those who say it vibrational (wave) Shapers and Wavers!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By AnnPan
Luca Turin is a witty and accessible writer who explains difficult scientific concepts with great clarity. But I get the strong impression that his publisher is trying to ride on the coat-tails of the outstandingly readable Perfumes: The A to Z Guide (the cover design is a bit of a clue). The author is a biophysicist with a passion for perfume which leads him into the world of chemistry. If you are not an organic or phyical chemist but you love reading science books that are aimed at an intelligent layperson, and are prepared to go with Turin and not get too fussed if you can't follow every word, then stick with it. This is one of those fascinating accounts by a maverick who goes against the established science and comes up with a highly plausible new theory - in this case, the mechanism by which we are able to smell. Not only that, but Turin puts his money where his mouth is, and putting his theory into practice he starts inventing new synthetic perfume ingredients commercially - pretty convincing I'd say. I loved this book but I must confess (a) I have a (very ancient and dusty) first degree in Physiology & Biochemistry with Chemistry, and (b) I don't have very many friends that I can pass this book on to. Perhaps I am underestimating my booksharing friends. It really is a riveting read. Try it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a masterpiece 23 Sep 2009
What a great, great book. I just finished reading it and was heading for the computer to leave some good words on Amazon to praise this masterpiece. Being a perfumer's apprentice myself, I can judge the book from own experience, working with most of the raw materials described and having had similar insights in the last few years.

Mr. Turin knows 100% what he is talking about. This is no "I copy from other books and hopefully nobody will notice" type of thing. "The secret of scent" is amazingly well written, it reads like a novell, like an adventure in science. Reading this book means great fun while teaching you the cornerstones of modern perfume design at the same time. Luca writes in a way so you can understand and not so you just know how dumb you are and how smart the author thinks he is, as many other "science books" are composed. I would recommend it to just everybody being interested in how perfumes "tick", but for perfumers it is the "#1 must read".

"The secret of scent" starts with a description of why we can't make perfumes only with natural substances alone and how it came we went deeper and deeper in understanding scents using chemistry. It then explains very detailed and in a crystal clear and logical chain HOW WE SMELL! Being a graduated physicist myself, I'm fully convinced Mr. Turin found the solution to this thousand years old mystery.

"The secret of scent" really left me breathless; a true revelation in the science of scent. IMHO, this book has a place among the "100 best popular science books ever written".
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for all perfume lovers. 19 May 2006
At last another book written by the legendary Luca Turin. Fans of his perfume reviews have been waiting for Dr Turin's new book for months, if not years. His Perfume Guide which has been out of print for many years is almost like a bible to the many perfume lovers from around the world.

Now we have The Secret of Scent. It delivers the most amazing and interesting pieces of information for the layman and chemist/perfumer alike. His witty style keeps the prose moving and he makes the complicated parts easy to understand.

For any perfume lover, this book is a must buy!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!
A great book that was recommended. An really interesting especially if you have a passion for perfume!.
A book to get lost in.
Published 10 months ago by Sophie Innes
4.0 out of 5 stars An insight into the perfume world.
A good read, I enjoyed the easy going style of the writer. Gave interesting insights into the world of perfumery and the big fragrance houses. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Florabelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Forever Interesting & Entertaining !!!
I am a true fan of Luca Turin's writing. I've loved fragrance for as long as I can smell.
My memories of scents be it my grandmother's Shalimar or a perfume I wore with... Read more
Published 18 months ago by J. Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars It's like book porn for perfume geeks
I bought this book on a whim - and because of the amazing reviews it had - and I wasn't disappointed. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Star Khechara
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating
A real surprise, this book - I wasn't expecting popular science, but it rekindled in me a love of chemistry. Read more
Published on 25 Mar 2011 by SecondCherry
4.0 out of 5 stars Secret of Scent
Concise, beautifully written and, if you can cope with some of the more technical elements, highly informative. Achieves the right balance of entertainment and informed detail. Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2010 by N. Wykes
4.0 out of 5 stars The Smell of Success
I bought this for a good friend who has an interest in perfumes. She took it away on a city break and spent large chunks of time reading it instead of touring Budapest. Read more
Published on 21 Jun 2009 by M. Sear
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like the description !
Although this book is well written I have to say that unless you are already in or SERIOUSLY interested in the chemistry side of scent this is not a book for you ! Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2009 by Craig Purves
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