Top critical review
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Lesson in perfume making
on 13 January 2012
I bought this book expecting an overview of the "world discovered in perfume's wake" as Amazon quotes from the backcover of one edition. I expected some history, a little background, insight into the cultural significance of perfume to fill in the gaps I still had after reading the very technical Luca Turin on the same subject. If you share these expectations reconsider getting this particular book.
The author provides some history, but it is very short and my impression while reading was that it's very unfocused. There's no timeline, no key thought to hold it all together as the author just rambles on about alchemy and how magical perfume is, which is not at all how I like my history served. The whole book up to the actual perfume making from essential oils is very repetitive and all I remember stated over and over again in one way or another boils down to: essential oils good (and earthy, natural, magical, etc.), synthetic compounds bad (non-magical and earthy that is). After a few times reading what is really only the author's subjective feeling and preference in choosing the ingredients for her everyday work I seriously considered putting the book down.
When you go past the whole alchemy/history piece, you get to what clearly is the author's passion - actual perfume making. Still infused with the "natural good, synthetic bad" approach, I imagine it would be extremely helpful to anyone wanting to make their own perfume. It was very informative, consistent and organized, taking the reader step by step further into the secrets of composition, actual mixing of ingredients and all the equipment you need to start your own perfumery workshop, from beginner to advanced perfumer. The author shares a lot of insight and her own experiences, even including a list of recommended shops and links.
The only problem is... I don't want to make my own perfume. While I enjoyed the latter part of the book, I still think the author should have skipped the first part and written a book called "How to be your own perfumer." To sum up, if you are interested in knowing how to get started on your own perfume - this is the perfect book for you. If, like me, this is not really what you're after, look for something else.