So, it's official: I am smitten with Chandler Burr's latest book, The Perfect Scent. Read it; you won't regret it. Burr, the perfume critic of The New York Times, was gracious enough to talk with me about perfume last week. Be sure to read his opinions on why a celebrity scent succeeds or fails, and read on to find out why a perfume can seem so great on paper, but can smell different when you wear it.
In your book, you mention that perfumes are now created to smell good on paper when you're in the store, rather than being formulated only for the skin.
It's the new construction because of the way people buy perfume. The way that people buy perfumes today has a huge impact in how a scent is constructed. It used to be that one would go into the atelier at Guerlain or Coty in Paris, and put the perfume on, and the assistant would bring cakes and tea. You'd smell the perfume and it would stay on your skin past an hour or two hours — for an entire afternoon. Today, you're trying to grab 10 minutes between the movie or the next business appointment, and you're not putting perfumes on skin because you're already dressed. It's like buying clothes without trying them on.
For Chandler's advice on shopping for perfume, read more
Yesterday I wrote about The Perfect Scent, Chandler Burr's fascinating book about a year in the perfume industry. (You can read an excerpt to find out why I'm so smitten with his prose.) When it comes to fragrance, Burr is one of the world's most knowledgeable experts. That's why I was so excited to speak with him about everything from celebrity scents to perfume shopping. Check out the first part of our interview, and be sure to come back tomorrow for more.
Both fragrances that you wrote about — Un Jardin Sur Le Nil and Lovely — have been successful. But what kind of story might have happened if they hadn't been?
I thought about that a lot, actually. I was very, very happy to be able to write about two perfumes that I really liked, two perfumes that were commercially successful. Had they not been, I really don't know. Julie Salamon was invited to follow the making of a movie. She did the same thing I did, but with The Bonfire of the Vanities. The novel was called The Devil's Candy. It was about the making of an absolutely disastrous movie. If that had happened to me, I would have done the same thing.
For Chandler's thoughts on celebrity fragrance, read more
Last weekend, I spent a wonderful afternoon devouring Chandler Burr's book The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. As the perfume critic for The New York Times, Burr explores both the business and creative sides of the fragrance industry. In The Perfect Scent, he writes about his year covering the development of two fragrances: Un Jardin Sur le Nil from Hermès and Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely.
This is such a well-written, fascinating, and enjoyable book that you'll find much to love even if you aren't obsessed with fragrance. I spoke with Chandler Burr on Friday, and I'll be bringing you some of his wit and expertise later this week. But for now, let me tell you about the book. For the synopsis, read more