If there’s one reason why you should buy and read Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent by Jean-Claude Ellena is that, when it comes to the sense of smell, he won’t use words like “it’s the most primitive sense,” which is the second most annoying perfume-related phrase, after Coco Chanel’s quote about where one should use perfume (are you really, REALLY sure, Coco?)
The book covers a lot of ground in the world of fragrances: from raw materials to marketing, from the process of creation to the difference between mainstream and niche perfumes, with a final chapter explaining the contradictory view of French jurisprudence, undecided between defining perfumes as works of the mind (subjected to copyright protection), or simple products of a skill, more akin to mowing a lawn than to art.
The fact that all this is condensed in a small book, means that Ellena won’t waste words, especially by refraining from any self-praise and bragging. Sure, he also talks about himself as a perfumer, but always in a dry, matter-of-fact way.
The guy knows a lot about the perfume world, but that’s a given considering his profession. What emerges from the pages however, is also a solid elaboration of perfume aesthetics, his own aesthetics, and the creation process.