April 27, 2008

Perfumes - The Guide

Reading the Turin/Sanchez book is so much fun. They are opinionated and unapologetically subjective. Their personalities are so big and they give them free rein, so I find it a joy to read. Why read anything about perfume if it is not entirely idiosyncratic and eccentrically individualistic? The specific details they cite are what bring out the sense memories as you read the reviews. There are about a thousand reviews, of the good (sublime) the bad (so bad pity is evoked for the perfumer, though I reserve judgment, since I have disagreement with some of their ratings ) and the ugly. One thing that kind of surprised me is that there are a number of five star evaluations given to Estee Lauder perfumes, such as Pleasures. I have very mixed memories and feelings about EL fragrances. Years ago I remember walking into an office in Rockefeller Center in the dead of winter and suddenly noticing a strong floral fragrance which was very uplifting under the circumstances. It turned out to be the receptionist wearing Pleasures. I had received a number of samples with makeup purchases and had set them side but this experience broke through to me and I started using them as an antidote to an especially long dreary winter and over lit florescent interiors at work. It wasn't really "right" on me, just that there was that intense high keyed floral tone that could break through practically any confusing street impressions or the processed feel of the air in skyscraper buildings whose windows have never been opened. There was that impression of nature but also the impression of chemistry, the bigness of the scent that both attracted and caused me to pull back at the same time. I think Luca Turin especially loves the cross between nature and chemistry, heavy on the chemistry, and he is certainly never put off by a "big" scent. The EL perfumes are for me true exemplars of that style of perfume. An EL perfume seems to be able to fill vastly spacious art deco era department store floors in NYC, which can be a very good thing, as an environmental decoration. Though I am not at all up to personally trying to hold my own with such a big perfume presence myself, I can appreciate what they do, and now even more after reading the enthusiastic descriptions of Pleasures and Beyond Paradise in the book. Now I have been inspired to deliberately throw open my mental windows to re take a tour of other well reviewed EL perfumes too, such as Youth Dew and Tuberose Gardenia.

Less surprisingly, the houses of Guerlain and Chanel are the most consistent recipients of the authors' five star ratings. I am thinking it would be not be bad at all to make a list of all the five stars they have given, throw it in my bag and take it with me wherever I go, with the aim of trying them one after the other in a systematic way. Without making it a sensory overload party, I think it would operate as a real gift to myself to try them all one by one as the opportunity arises. A magical mystery tour of the classics and some surprises, like Tommy Girl -- I don't know if I will love them all as much as they do, probably not, but I know I will be thoughtfully guided in an refinement of my taste and sensibilities.
The authors invite samples for their review at http://www.perfumestheguide.com/
$15.85 on Amazon, with free shipping, last I looked.


chayaruchama said...

B bought this for me, and I confess that I keep picking it up...

I really shouldn't get my knickers in a twist.
Silly me.

Keep getting riled with the Mona Di Orio thing- it feels so personal and vituperative.

[ I admit- I cheated on you with her, at Aedes.
Thought she was simply remarkable...]

Be well, my princess.

Lucy said...

Darling, yes, I have not yet read the whole thing but I saw that there was that snarky review for Mona Di Orio -- their tone does have a very intensely personal flavor and I understand you might want to challenge LT to a duel. I take it for what it is and figure that perfume reviews can never anything but very very subjective anyway, considering the subject matter, since it's all based on your own personal sense memories and how whatever you are smelling at the moment meshes into your own life. I reserve my opinion as I read considering my differences of opinion on a number of perfumes they have written about. Sometimes I find they are expressing an entirely different experience than mine. I think most people will take it as just that, extremely personal opinion. Even though they are respected they are not some kind of final authorities, or even real arbiters of taste, because such animals are extinct; critics no longer have the power they once had. But it is just extremely interesting to read the thoughts of others who really care about perfume. I can't really get behind the big chemical thing they love so much, for myself, though I can appreciate what they like about it in an abstract way. Also disagree with their assessment that perfume is not different on different people, based on my direct experience.
I have seen other blogs conducting poll-like tests of some of their more surprising recommendations, such as Tommy Girl, and people do not seem to be changing their minds very often. People have very strong opinions of their own about scents, which undermines the power of any one critic out there.