Friday, October 21, 2011

Perfume Book Review: Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez The Little Book of Perfumes/The 100 Classics

Utter the names Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez and a combination of their polarising "Guide's", irrepresible wit and -equally irrepresible- snark, all rolled into one, flash into one's mind like LED-lamps that flicker between a P anode and a N cathode throughout eternity. The reason to read their newest venture isn't quite all of the above, nevertheless: Dropping the snark for a programmatically positive outlook ~The Little Book of Perfumes is all about 5-star perfumes reviews, aka "masterpieces" according to the authors~ they're not simply fawning reviews as met with in other guides, not being short on addressing serious fragrance industry issues either. (After all, if you don't know Luca is rather fond of the smell of Napalm in the morning, you don't know anything yet.)

Although the material is largely taken from the previous Perfumes,The Guide (review here and a small practical note on all the different editions here), serving as a petite compendium or a Xmas gift to spark fun discussion over the course of wine & cheese among people who raise their eyebrows up to their  paretial bone upon hearing you possess a "fragrance collection" ("say what, more than 5???? Why????"), there is a difference: For several of those 96 reviews (more of which below) there is a small 2011 addendum, mostly by Sanchez, that chronicles the evolution that time and IFRA allergens & raw materials regulations have administered to these fragrances. And this is mainly the interest for those who already own a copy of the 2008 book: Staunchy perfume enthusiasts already know most of what's to know about reformulations and search the Net for info regularly. But those who're budding in the aficion will get a kick out of getting their sentiments that "something's not quite right in the frag they loved any more" validated.

All is not bad news, though, in those addenda mentioned, even if heads at Dior almost collectively (and a couple of the PR contigency plan at Guerlain) must be cussing right & left most probably right about now (Well, not really, for the most part the authors proclaim the work rendered "as best as could be under the circumstances"). Some fragrances have in fact upgraded, if that's possible! I specifically mention 96 perfume reviews because 4 out of the 100 are hors catégorie, being reconstructions specifically for L'Osmothèque (thus making them unavailable for purchase). A couple of them featured in the "little book" are still resolutely discontinued (Yohji pour Homme and Le Feu d'Issey for instance or more recently L'Artisan's Vanilia) but hope dies last, in the Turin & Sanchez universe (And why not, I ask you? Fougère Royale 2010 AD I'm not looking at you, don't get any ideas in your silly head!).
So what's left is 90+ reviews of things every perfume enthusiast (and not only) should note down to smell sometime.

The new material includes a foreword by Tania Sanchez (written in good pace perfumista-style and ringing very true) and an essay on the Osmothèque by Luca Turin (in his trademark eloquent polemic, mixing music metaphors and similes which caress the cerebral cortex); there are four reviews of long-lost, beautiful Osmothèque perfumes the authors tested during a presentation on perfume by the brilliant Patricia de Nicolaï, curator of the Osmothèque, at the French Embassy in Washington, DC, organized by Smithsonian Associates. "We give you L’Origan, described by me by LT’s request, and Chypre de Coty, Emeraude and Iris Gris, described by LT at my request" clarifies Tania Sanchez.
The top ten lists (exacted by all publishers worth their print salt, per Tania) have been updated and there is a new "Desert Island" top list for each respective author. I found the added resources & shopping short essay at the end rather meagre, personally (lots of other helpful resource guides are available online), though the Perfumed Court is hailed as a decanting service for when you can't get hold of something any other way and The Perfumer's Apprentice gets a nod for those eager to smell the raw materials themselves.(With which I would urge you should familiarise yourselves, if you're serious about this whole perfume thing)

To make things practical, I have noted down which fragrances are considered to have gotten BETTER/STAYED THE SAME in 2011 than the 2007 sample bottles the writing duo had received (in alphabetical order):

Calandre Paco Rabanne
Cristalle Chanel
Dior Homme
Fracas Piguet
Habit Rouge Guerlain
Jicky Guerlain
Knize Ten
Mitsouko Guerlain
Nahéma Guerlain
Poison Dior
Shalimar Guerlain

And these are the fragrances which are considered to have gotten (somewhat!) WORSE/CHANGED in 2011 than the 2007 sample bottles the writing duo had received (in alphabetical order). Please note, the fragrances below are still considered worthy of inclusion in the compendium of 5-stars:

1740 Histoires de Parfums
Amouage Gold
Après l'Ondée Guerlain
Bois des Iles Chanel
Bois de Violette Serge Lutens
Boucheron Femme
Chamade Guerlain
Cuir de Russie Chanel
Diorella Dior
Dune Dior
Eau de Guerlain
Eau Sauvage Dior
Givenchy III
L'Heure Bleue Guerlain
Iris Silver Mist Serge Lutens
Joy parfum Jean Patou
New York Patricia de Nicolai
No.5 eau de toilette Chanel
No.5 parfum Chanel
Opium Yves Saint Laurent
Pour Monsieur Chanel
Promesse de l'Aube MCDI (attributed to just a faulty batch, though)
The Third Man (Le 3eme Homme) Caron
Vol de Nuit Guerlain

You might have noticed that that makes it roughly 35 "updates" (I excluded a couple, because of simply announcing news of "discontinuation" such as Theo Fennel's Scent or due to ambivalence) and I expect that might get book buyers pondificating the issue. Yet interestingly, there are some surprising results, especially for some perfume lovers who have been disappointed in certain notable classics lately (Shalimar, Cristalle) and can now be enthused anew. But I won't elaborate further; you have to check it out for yourselves!
I will only add that I'm glad Tania added that necessary deterrent on crétions Magnifiques for anyone who couldn't really fathom how such a brave (read: disgusting) scent entered the masterpieces collection, or anyone who might go ahead and spray some on their lapels before going out on a date or job interview, God forbid; "masterpiece" and "pleasant" are not mutually inclusive terms! (And if you disagree, what the hell are you doing reading Turin & Sanchez or this blog?)

The book circulates under two editions: One American by Penguin US, another British by Profile UK. They are exactly the same, as far as I know, but they feature a different cover, as shown on the photo (taken from Tania Sanchez with many thanks)
The US edition is on pre-order on this link. The UK edition is on pre-order on this link. Official date of release is October 31st 2011.


  1. That list of changed fragrances makes me want to cry a little.

  2. Sounds like a good read.

  3. Thanks for the list! Looking forward to buying the book and reading their new comments.

    Some in the list seem (eg Chanel 5 and Diorella) had already been downgraded in the paperback, so I wonder if they have been further downgraded. Some other downgrades had been discussed extensively (Opium, Heure Bleue). And for some it'll be interesting to see if they refer to the parfum or edt, which are very different (CdR, Chamade).


  4. Patuxxa,

    well, since you're reading here, you knew it was coming, didn't you? It does make the heart go sad when they're amassed though.
    I was hoping to see some releases since 2008 entering the new book, but it wasn't meant to be.

  5. Eld,

    they write in a flowing style, as you know, that is easy to follow and get engaged. Yes, good read.

  6. Cacio,

    interesting questions, so for all concerned let me clarify.

    The LT/TS comments on those frags which are included in my list as "changed" means the 2011 bottles have been compared by the duo with their 2007 bottles and found them rather "lesser" (or changed in a way that might jolt perfume lovers out of their recognition zone; which is not necessarily always 100% detrimental, as they note out). For instance they're favorable on the changes on No.5 based on what the perfumers can and can't do at present time; but changed a bit they proclaim it all the same!
    Some others which have been discussed among perfume aficionados extensively (LHB, Opium etc) are downgraded.
    In some cases there's a comment that "the new one isn't how the 2007 is described above" (example Le Troisieme Homme) which is a bit of raining on one's parade, had to be done, I guess.

    In all reviews the lowest concentration available at the time of writing (so 99% of the time it's EDT) is taken as point of departure. That means that Angel EDT for instance is not reviewed because it hadn't launched at time of writing, plus they're not adding anything really. Only No.5 gets a slot as both edt and extrait de parfum!
    So CDR is edt and Chamade is also edt.

    There is one ambivalent 2011 addendum, hence I didn't include it in my list: Insensepour Homme by Givenchy is assumed to have changed for the worse, taking in stride Le 3eme Homme's downfall. But they obviously didn't get a sample bottle in the mail and therefore they remain mum on the issue apart from this conjecture (hoping to be proven wrong).

  7. Thanks for clarifying!

    The eau versus parfum could be important, because for many the two smell significantly different (CdR, as well as many Guerlains). But of course, there are so many things one can review.

    As for Insense, I've never been able to smell the reissue (whether in 2007 or 2011), since this doesn't appear to be found anywhere other than on the Givenchy's website, so I guess it almost qualifies as "discontinued" (and Givenchy III is pretty much the same on this front).


  8. do you know what is said of l'heure bleue? im planning on buy my first bottle. and would love to know what the opinion is of the new batch. thanks.

  9. Dzing!y:

    I don't know what's in the book (and EV won't be quoting too much of it - after all, we need to buy it!). But Tania Sanchez was quoted somewhere (forgot where) saying "I wanted to cry? what have they done to my HB?".

    If you are into forums, there is a nice discussion on recent HB at basenotes:


  10. Cacio,

    indeed! Good point! (Chanel and Guerlains do differ in their concentrations and in fact, one factoid I omitted above is that actually it's Isolence EDP that is singled out, not EDT, which is an exception to the general rule of "mentioning the lowest concentration" as per Tania's foreward).
    I suppose it wasn't technically feasible or there just weren't that much interest in covering EVERYTHING within the lines of those fragrances. Or they're saving on issuing a further little booklet or something. Who knows.
    The point is it's interesting to hear opinions on perfumes we love!

    I don't know why Insence is scarce. Supposedly Les Mythiques were re-issued exactly to re-aquaint perfume buyers with these less "pushed" frags. Sorta defeats the point, doesn't it...

  11. Thanks Ann, welcome to the Shrine and hope you drop by often.
    It's a fun read.

  12. Dzingy,

    cacio is right. I can't reveal too much because with little new material, afterwards what would be the interest of the buyer in actually buying it?
    Suffice to say it's considered a "stranger" now. (I recall it was TS's "come of age" scent in the perfume dicovery path)

  13. Cacio,

    thanks for providing further material on the LHB changes!
    (and yes, you guessed correctly; see my comment above)

  14. thank you for all your responses. do you know where i can get a good version of the edp of LHB?

  15. Dzingy,

    thank you as well.

    I think your best bet right now would be vintage auctionsn (online and in estate sales etc). The PdT is a particularly great!
    (see perfume concentrations explained here)

  16. Want this book as soon as possible! ;)


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