Perfumes: The Guide – by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

Perfumes: The Guide - by Luca Turin and Tania SanchezI´ve spent much of the past couple of weeks tucked into Perfumes: The Guide, to the dismay of the Big Cheese and my children, who kept interrupting me for trivialities like requests for food, or the location of some clean clothing. I was ostensibly issued an early copy for review (the publisher asked us to wait until today to talk about it), but instead I did what I assume every fragrance nut would do – I dug through the book to see what the authors thought of my favorites, feeling smugly vindicated by some and horrified by others.

If you´re reading this blog I assume most of you are familiar with Perfumes: The Guide and the format, and if      yo´re not, here´s a link to their website.  It´s a long-anticipated updated redo of Luca Turin´s previous French-language Le Guide, an alphabetical list of perfumes, in this edition reviewed by Luca Turin (LT) or Tania Sanchez (TS) or, on a few occasions when they disagree or the fragrance is particularly monumental, by both.  The Guide is probably best savored as one would a particularly delectable box of chocolates – devour three or four of them slowly, with a glass of wine or cup of coffee, although I´m not judging you if you do what I did and try to eat the whole box at once.  Just warning you: it´s rich stuff, and you may put it down feeling a little ill.

I didn´t see it covered in the introduction, and I was curious: how did the authors round up the fragrances for their review?  (From here on out, btw, I´m referring to them as Luca and Tania, because “Turinand Sanchez” sounds stupidly formal to me.  LT and TS – mazel tov, and feel free to call me March.)  So I emailed the publisher and received the following email response from Tania:

“We had a call for samples on I also phoned up or emailed everyone I could find a contact for, usually the PR department, and I asked them to send samples. Some did, some didn’t. Of those that didn’t, we managed to review some by going out to the shops.  We just reviewed whatever came in, and we tried to chase down everyone who hadn’t sent anything. I spent half my day hunting and half my day reviewing, morning to night, throughout the writing of this book. Some firms simply refused to send, or promised to send and did not. Online perfume obsessives will find this hard to believe, but most people in the industry have never heard of either of us, by which I mean it was not simply a matter of saying,  ‘Luca Turin wants samples,’ at which point twenty silk-clad servants come carrying goldplated bottles. In fact, it’s possible that those who did know who Luca was were even more reluctant. So it was a real task to convince people to send actual samples, not press releases. We hope they figure it out the next time around.”

I´d read bits of Le Guide, translated from French, so I had some idea of what I´d be getting.  Perfumes: The Guide is opinionated, subjective and personal in the same way Le Guide  was, and if that annoyed you then, here´s some more.  If you love it, and I do, then curl up for a really fun read.  I feel like I´m stating the obvious here, but given the way this topic flares up in various ways on various venues, I guess it bears discussing: this book is the labor of love of two obviously intelligent, fragrance-obsessed people, bolstered by a fair amount of technical knowledge and some insider access, but, at its heart, it is opinion.  It is subjective.  I´m not sure how anyone is supposed to get around the subjectivity of a guide to fragrance — do nothing but list the notes? Even those are suspect, provided by the perfume house. For some reason, a certain percentage of readers seem infuriated by the fact that the fragrances are judged, and some (perhaps their favorites) are found lacking.  If having Luca Turin assign your Holy Grail one star (all fragrances are rated from one to five stars) and call it piss in a bottle is going to keep you up at night, fuming, don´t read the book.  On the other hand, if you can read some criticism of a bunch of fragrances and be amused by it, even when they´re ragging something your love, well, then, bon appetit.

My chief complaint about the book will be shared by every fragrance nut who reads it – they can´t include everything, so invariably some of the particular things you´re looking for will be missing. As Tania said in her email, “We tried to review complete lines, but some samples clearly fell behind the bookcase.” They review some but not all fragrances of various lines like L’Artisan.Vintage, discontinued, and hard to find fragrances are not included, so no reviews of Coty Chypre, for instance, or Fendi Theorema, or Donna Karan Chaos, although I´d have loved to read their thoughts on those.(They do mention some vintage gems in passing in other reviews).

Any of those folks who´d read Le Guide  might have been nervous about submitting their fragrances for the project (and I bet Mona di Orio´s wishing she hadn´t sent hers in.  Ouch.)  Still, though, in a perfect world they´d have had a perfume-nut friend/editor go over their (probably constantly evolving) list of fragrances to fine-tune any major omissions.  For instance, and maybe I missed it, I find the absence of Feminite du Bois a glaring oversight.  I bet there are some other niche perfume classics missing as well.  By the way, in her email Tania invites readers to send any omissions to the contact email on their website, for further evaluation/inclusion in any future edition. Luca might not know or care what the perfume freaks are interested in, but Tania certainly does, with her involvement on MUA.I´ll be curious, as more of you read it, what else might be missing.

Second, and this isn´t really a fair criticism, but then again I´m not The New Yorker:   I wish the authors’ writing styles were more different from each other.  Their individual styles are different, but not so obvious as to prevent me from glancing at the bottom of the review to see who wrote it, because I couldn´t necessarily tell from reading it (Tania sounds younger, and go ahead, shoot me; Luca uses more devices like opera references and more olfactory-science descriptors, like chemical components).  They share a biting wit that provides some of the funniest moments in the book and at the same time has me wishing vaguely that one of them played the role of straight man.  There´s a balance there, I know.  They don´t want their review styles to be so disparate as to be jarring; at the same time, I would have enjoyed it had one of them been more measured and low-key in tone.  Coming from me, the Queen of Brash, I know that sounds silly, but I still think more contrast in voice would have been refreshing.  On the other hand, who wants to be the straight man?

Finally, while I find their one-star reviews amusing, given the space constraints, I´d rather they´d have dropped a few of those, particularly if it´s a series of consecutive reviews stating in various pithy ways that an entire line smells like drain cleaner.  They also could have felt free to leave some of the flankers out –I´d gladly have traded the reviews of every single stupid variation of Angel for reviews of five or six other scents.

Overall, though, it´s a slice of heaven.  I started to compile a list of shockers and amusing insults, but really, any list I make is going to reflect my personal interests, and your interests are bound to be different.  I have no doubt some of the ratings and assessments will have people typing up a storm on the fragrance boards (five stars for Elternhaus´ MoslBuddJewThing?!?!?!one crummy star for Miss Boucheron, Chanel Gardenia, Coriandre and much, much more!) but to me that´s precisely the fun of this type of book.  They can be absolutely cruel, and if that´s going to make you weep in pity for their victims, maybe you should save the $28 and buy a cute summer tee shirt and some flip flops.  On the other hand, their concise, opinionated, thoughtful, interesting, stunningly articulate 40-odd page introduction and Q&A alone is worth the price.  This section touches on taste, style, notes, history, masculines, feminines, and other goodies related to perfume.

I´d like to wrap up this post with a perfectly-timed comment about criticism, left on the blog recently by someone who was clearly chafed by my dissing of Serge Lutens and the Five O´Clock au Gingembre,and I quote:

“critique est facile, seul l’art est difficile..

Que vous ne soyez pas dingue de Five O’Clock est une chose, remettre en cause tout le travail de Serge Lutens en est une autre !

Lui qui tant de fois a osé et imaginé l’impensable…

Lui qui tant de fois a secoué le monde de la Parfumerie paupérisée par une bande d’incultes qui se croyaient plus fort grace à  des moyens colossaux dont il n’a jamais disposé…

Seriez-vous capable d’en faire autant ?”

Running that through a cheesy online free translator, I get something like:

“Critical is easy, only the art is difficult..

What you be not crazy Five O’Clock is a thing, question the whole work of Serge Lutens is another!

Him that so many time dared and imagined l’impensable.Him that so many time shook the world of the Perfumery pauperized by a band of uncultivated ones that believed themselves stronger thanks to colossal resources of which he never had…

Would you be able some to do as much?”

Actually, I disagree.  Criticism is damn hard.  I struggle and fuss over ideas and sentences and sometimes individual words on these posts, and I am sure LT and TS struggled with Perfumes: the Guide.  It is, as I´ve just demonstrated, perilously easy to lose things in translation, is it not?  From the colossus to his audience, from the bottle to the nose, from the pen to the paper, from the brain to the hand, from the thought to the expression.I share your pain at the world of perfumery pauperized by a band of uncultivated ones (although as another commenter said, I thought Lutens was backed by the other name on the Palais Royal awning, Shiseido, which is somewhere in size between LVMH and Godzilla, and if so I doubt he’s lacking resources.) Ultimately, one of the chief glories of blogging is I can question the genius of Serge Lutens on here and own it, right or wrong.  It´s called … an opinion.  They´re free, legal, loads of fun, and — like Mitsouko all my other favorite perfumes — they don’t make my ass look any bigger in my jeans.

Today I’m on my way to NYC for the Sniffa — back at you all later.

  • Mervedes S says:


    Btw, looked up “Beyond Paradise”…blather, babbel, long string of incoherent “tech” words, and non sequiturs such as “women have no business smelling like flowers” (as if the current trend, of havng them smell like chocolate and other sweets is preferable)… I am not impressed. Plus, I do like “Amarige” (one star in the book, where the rating starts out “we nearly gave it four stars”. I do not understand these people.

  • Mercedes S says:

    Look forward to that!
    P.S. “Tommy Girl”, five stars? I rest my case.

    • March says:

      Um … I pretty much have no argument against you on that one. I can’t decide whether that or Beyond Paradise gets my goat more. /:)

      I’m announcing tomorrow that we’ll do a forum on The Guide a week from Monday. I hope to see you there!

  • Mercedes S says:

    Hmmmm… let me put it this way. Notice all the wonderful quotes in movie ads on Fridays? From people you’ve probably never heard of? And they all RAVE about these REALLY bad movies? These people are known as quote whores in the business. They are flown to Los Angeles or New York (or sometimes to some really exotic locale, like Hawaii or Paris), shown a movie, put up in a lovely first class hotel room, and given anywhere from 3 to five minutes to interview a star from the movie the next day. Then they’re asked to submit a quote for the movie. The more positive quotes they submit, the more movie junkets they’re invited to.

    Back when newspapers had their own movie critics and their own movie writers (today most papers subscribe to wire services or Roger Ebert’s columns), they would pay for their writers’ travels and hotel rooms, which meant those writers could be relied on to give honest opinions about the movies.

    See the difference?

    • March says:

      I do see the difference, but I don’t see that it has anything to do with The Guide. As far as I know, with a few (unspecified) exceptions that they had to go sniff at counters, all the stuff LT/TS sampled came free from the houses, and they handed out plenty of one-star ratings, so how did the houses buy them off, precisely? They seemed perfectly able to overcome the Dark Forces of Marketing to hand out plenty of crap ratings.

      We’re clearly never going to agree on this, but what I really want is for you to come back in a few posts when I do The Guide discussion group (I’m aiming for a week from Monday) because I think your perspective would add a lively note to the discussion. :)>-

  • Mercedes S says:

    Let me clarify, March, with “samples” I mean a bottle of scent, the kind we as consumers would buy at a store, not a small, milliliter sized container. And I still think anyone doing a serious, impartial study of a product, needs to shell out the money for it. Obviously it would be nice to get the scents to be judged straight from “the house”, but again, they should be paid for. I have dealt with PR people for over 30 years and corruption is their middle name.

    • March says:

      I am sorry to sound dense. I just don’t understand. Are you saying that LT/TS would be unable to judge the scents fairly unless they paid for them? … Why? I mean, I can see endless logical quibbling about almost any other part of their reviews, and it’s all just their opinion anyway. But assuming they got all the bottles the same way, free from the manufacturer, what part of that produces an impartial result? If they’re comparing them to each other, what difference does it make whether they got the whole lot with cash or free? Are you saying they wrote something different than what they’d have written if Viking had shelled out for the bottles?

  • Mercedes S says:

    Better way to get samples… I guess do it the Consumer Reports way, i.e. pay for it, so you can’t be accused of being partial to a particular brand. To “phone the PR department and ask for (free) samples” is absolutely the most unprofessional way to do this kind of “work”.

    • March says:

      But a lot of the houses don’t sell samples (hence the decanting business.) And how would getting free samples or bottles (the houses’ choice) from all interested parties make them partial, and wouldn’t you expect them to be above being bought that way? Also, wouldn’t it be better to have them judge samples straight from the house rather than some manky bottle that’s been sitting around in Macy’s dead stock at ninety degrees for five years, or whatever? That way they’re judging the best that company has to offer. I still don’t see what the issue is.

  • Mercedes S says:

    “Perfumes The Guide” was a severe disappointment. I had never heard of the Luca Turins – saw them talk about the book on a morning show, and then discovered it at B&N later that day. It’s a lazily compiled book, withour a real index (only their own star-rated one)or any history about the art of perfume making. At least fifteen of my favorite scents were not mentioned – and I’m talking basic stuff. The authors are woefully ignorant about scientific developments in this field; still believe “it’s all in your head” if a perfume smells one way on you, a different way on your friend. People’s body chemistry varies, and “Opium” on you will smell different from “Opium” on me. Likewise, “Miss Dior” on most 12-year olds is harsh, on a 22-year old it’s generally beautiful.

    I was appalled to hear that LT and TS (this is how they refer to themselves) collected their specimens to sniff by badgering the scent makers for free samples. What kind of scientific method is that?!

    One-star reviews are “cute” and not at all helpful. About Hamptons (Bond No. 9) we’re told “Anyone who would choose to wear this confused, harsh concoction is someone you would not invite for a weekend at your summer home”. No hint about scent at all.

    Similes should have been edited: LT says about Le Jasmin (which he gives one star) “to this reviewer, this fragrance is like nails on a chalkboard.”

    • March says:

      Hey, Mercedes — come back on another day, probably in the next week or two, we’re going to have a full-fledged discussion of The Guide after more people have had a chance to read it. I’ll say quickly here I agree the lack of an index is irritating. I realize the fragrances are in alphabetical order, but that doesn’t negate the usefulness of an index. I didn’t see the interview but LT has said that before about skin chemistry, and I think most of us disagree with him.

      Will ask you, as I am curious: what would have been a better way to get samples?

  • Jemimagold says:

    As I posted over on Basenotes in their forum section, my immediate thoughts were that it is a great resource book and I enjoyed the pithy, blunt commentary (so different to “Countess” Jan Moran’s “Fabulous Fragrances I and II”) but I just have to ask, what is Turin’s obsession with Calice Becker??? I mean, come on! He seems to think her “Tommy Girl” and EL “Beyond Paradise” were each some kind of incredible opus. Turin is like a star-struck kid, gushing and oohing over Becker’s every creation no matter how commercial or cheap-smelling it is.

    The other odd thing I noticed was that Turin seemed rather erratic regarding at least one of today’s well known perfume creators. In the Caleche entry, he says of Guy Robert: “When you know this has been composed by Guy Robert, all it takes is one sniff… to know they’ve grieviously messed with it.” But, over at Amouage Gold, Turin states, “Robert is perhaps the most symphonic of the old-school perfumers still working today”. Where were the editors of this book (many typos, by the way…)?

    • March says:

      Well, I don’t know. I agree with your observations. I don’t have any insider knowledge, so I assume it’s something about the various perfumers’ styles he becomes obsessed with. Calice Becker, Sophia Grojsman — yes. Giacobetti, Ellena — not so much. I could also argue that in general he isn’t much of a fan of light fragrances. Some of the stuff feels almost personal (I kept wondering, did Mona di Orio DO something to you?)

    • Victoria says:

      Jemimagold, I think that you misunderstood the phrase (but granted, I saw this comment elsewhere alreadt, and it is the fault of the editor for not making it clearer.) Anyway, Turin is not erratic in his respect for Guy Robert. In fact, he is saying that Caleche has been reformulated–the fragrance sold right now does not smell like the fragrance composed by great perfumer Guy Robert.

      Great review, March! Fun to read you as always.

      • Erin T says:

        Thanks for clarifying V – I interpreted it that way, but certainly can see why Jemimagold was confused, as there seemed to be missing info there (the reformulation). It seems to me that the symphonic is a fave style of LT’s.

      • March says:

        V, thanks for clarifying. Your explanation made sense just as soon as I read it (and seems obvious in hindsight) but the thought is so awkwardly expressed in the book I couldn’t see his point until you interpreted it. :”>

  • minette says:

    picked it up today, and not having read your “read it like chocolates” advice, i overindulged and actually wound up getting bored. heresy, i know.

    i think what happened was, i wanted to engage them in a conversation about their “findings” and couldn’t, so i got frustrated talking to myself. it would be fun if there were an interactive component to this. maybe there is and i’ve missed it.

    even better would be if they’d come here so we could go sniff and play together.

  • moi says:

    I received an email from Amazon yesterday that my pre-order of this book has been shipped. Woo hoo! Thanks for your advanced review. I work as a film/food critic and not a week goes by that someone doesn’t huffily sniff their noses at what I do for a living. Never mind. If writing clearly and evocatively about something subjective isn’t an art in and of itself, I don’t know what is. And writing about smell? That’s a whole nuther layer to the cake. You guys do it exceptionally well.

  • sylvia says:

    brilliant! so excited to read it. its funny, in our online perfume world (the blogs, MUA, basenotes) the release of this book has become like the 8th harry potter in a way. if not that many people knew about harry potter….

  • Erin T says:

    I’m taking offense because I think such talk makes MUA a much more boring place to be. Personally, I don’t need numerous lectures about how everybody has an opinion.

  • Naturefan says:

    If the imagination of blossom of flowers from the sky which delight mildly natural sent for all of you means you cannot say you not like it and you really enjoy, you know it you think about it you review again and adore it really.
    everytimes you passed many parfumes shop you may not buy it at the frist time but I the long term this one you looking you all of your life happy cheerful creativity challance and may not the most elegance look and smell which you feel it is ok. and this one you will feel can belive in ,reliable,honest.and may be M…..OR….For me.Luca’s review of L’Artisan’s Vanilia, which is may not favorite smell.It smell like the bakery may be afternoon tea but great natural Artist.too simply.but I may be order the book to read sound interesting.

  • sweetlife says:

    Great review. And very interesting notes on style and voice, March. I bet they debated that one a lot…

    I think people get so miffed about the opinions because it’s A Book, and because Luca is well known, and because (let’s face it) the book presents itself as definitive (THE Guide), in the same way that they get miffed at Chandler Burr’s column because CB is being paid to do something they’ve been doing for years, arguably just as well. When the great enlightened days arrive and perfume criticism is a respected and understood category the way the film, book, and art critiques are then (I’m betting) the debates will continue, but in a calmer way.

  • sariah says:

    Biggest surprise for me – all the low ratings for Caron Urn fragrances, like Tabac Blond 1 star! Poivre 2 stars!

    Considering buying Yohji Homme unsniffed based on review – big deal for me – haven’t bought anything unsniffed in a few years.

    Have a blast in NYC.

  • Nava says:


    My copy showed up at around 12:30 pm yesterday and by 10:30 last night, I read all 49 pages of the introduction and perused most of the reviews. I was pleased that some of my favorites did score well with Luca and Tania.

    What was laugh-out-loud funny was Luca’s review of L’Artisan’s Vanilia, which is one of my all-time favorite scents. “It’s as if Shalimar met Andy Warhol and came out far trashier and happier.” He goes on to say that it is “so totally devoid of chic” and should be “Enjoy[ed] with a banana float, a sunburn and really loud music.”

    I don’t consider myself an arbiter of style and I don’t particularly enjoy banana floats or sunburns, but I still like my music loud and after discovering Vanilia 15 years ago, I still adore it. The juxtaposition of his 5 star rating and statement that it is “Good Vulgar” doesn’t bother me a bit. 🙂

  • violetnoir says:

    Ooh wee! I can’t wait for my copy of the book to arrive.

    Hugs, and have a blast in NYC, March!

  • Erin T says:

    Yeah, I’ll be enjoying my time here – there’s no Turnip Posse. (Too bad! :))

  • Erin T says:

    Hey D, thanks for bringing up the di Orio thing. I also remember a number of references to her looks in her PR, but these are gone now. Respect! (Love Ali G., so thanks for that, too.)

    • donanicola says:

      Hi Erin – thank you! I felt a twinge of guilt and went and looked at her site after posting the above and as you say, the looks comment has gone. (It was all about being a Modigliani or El Greco beauty wasn’t it?)Yeah, love Ali G!

      • Erin T says:

        Yeah, she was “a living Modigliani or El Greco”! (As well as an incredible, natural genius and that extremely rare thing, a female perfumer. 🙂 ) A little over-the-top fer sure.

  • donanicola says:

    Two excellent, thought provoking posts from you, March, this week. Respect! I’m so looking forward to receiving my pre ordered copy and will try not to get indigestion. I very much doubt it will influence my taste but I am hoping to learn to look at some scents in a different way. Just a comment on the subject of Mona di Orio’s looks. I agree that looks should be neither here nor there but her website (the last time I looked) did make some point of describing her beauty. I presume she knows what is written on her site so she or her PR put the subject of her looks in the arena first!

  • Catherine says:

    Oh, NO!!! Not my beloved Mona!! :((

    Oh, well. I shall carry the torch for her even higher, even prouder. 😡

    I was always more entertained by Turin’s first guide than accepting of his pronouncements. I loved his use of words and zingers. Despite the hit on Mona, I’m sure this is going to be a fun read.

  • Divalano says:

    I’m totally impressed that you managed to write such a lengthy & thoughtful review whilst trying to pack & get out the door to the Sniffa (& I can’t wait to meet you, btw!).

    And … I. Want. This. Book. Bad. I didn’t care one way or t’other before I read this today, btw. I don’t have a problem with reviews/critiques of food, perfume or B&Bs being subjective, it’s a review. If I want a list of notes I’ll just google. It would be most helpful if the reviewer & I had the same taste but even if we don’t, so long as their taste is identifiable & consistent (& most of all, entertaining & well-written) I can use it as a gauge to know how I might find the same restaurant, B&B, perfume, etc … Yes, yes, I want this book, I do.

  • Wendy says:

    I find that various forms of perfume criticism (blogs, Burr, Basenotes…)serve the purpose of encouraging me to try things I would not necessarily try myself.

    Especially the things that trigger either blind devotion, widespread revulsion or wild extremes of love and loathing. Well-written reviews will do that.

    I’ve been looking forward to getting this book. Thank you so much for the review March, and have a fabulous time in New York.

  • Suzanne says:

    March, thank you so much for this post. I haven’t ordered this book, but probably will, and I feel like you have me a very good understanding of what I can (and can’t) expect from it. It sounds quite fun and entertaining–and as you mentioned, done by two obviously intelligent people who are true perfumephiles–but, like any kind of critique, it shouldn’t be taken to heart, but rather used as a measuring stick, a point of reference, in combination with one’s own inner critic.

    (I do hope, though, that they are critiquing the perfumes and not the people that are creating them. I would agree with Perfume Shrine’s comment above, in regard to Mona di Orio, that if they are commenting on her looks, that is rather off-putting.)

  • Jenavira says:

    Ages ago when I posted on POL, I remember the brief appearance of Turin on th forum, and he was the first one to admit that his opinion was just that opinion. To this day I still can’t see the genius of J’Adore or Beyond Paradise and I am perfectly okay with that, and maybe going further as much as we are offended by Turin’s comments on our fragrances, we often rip his beloved scents to shreds too. Considering he married Tania Sanchez who was at one point very much a part of MUA, he is most likely very much aware in the difference of opinion.

  • Erin T says:

    Thank HEAVEN for you, March. I have to say some of the response to the guide really has peed me off massively! I’m sorry people, but if you are going to get worked up and say rude things about the authors because you wear Vera Wang Princess or the reformulated Carons, PLEASE PLEASE just spend the money on some LV perfume or whatever instead. You’ll be happy! Good for you! You know what makes you happy and I applaud you! Dear holy prophets, please do NOT go on MUA and reveal the shocker that THIS IS ONLY THEIR OPINION! And they suck! (Because their opinion is different from yours.) It reminds me of the first-year university and college essays where students “reveal” a commonly acknowledged and obvious bit of symbolism or plot. I don’t mean to be rude, but the one thing that’s “facile” to do is hysterically criticize somebody’s thoughtful, labored-over criticism.

    • moon_grrl says:

      Shaking my head in agreement so hard, it may fall off!

      I would add that going on MUA to reveal the obvious is also going to dredge up personal problems with one or the other author, which, seriously, is none of our damned business. I don’t tend to worry about other people’s private lives, especially when they’re writing about perfume.

      • gigi says:

        Excuse me, but MUA is a place to talk about fragrances and fragrance opinions, too. It’s not a place designed to preserve precious tender feelings.

        • Erin T says:

          Sure, but it’s better if the comments are constructive and interesting, not the same dead-obvious thing over and over again.

        • moon_grrl says:

          I don’t know where you get the idea that I’m advocating preserving anyone’s “tender feelings”, I just don’t see why some people feel the need to air other’s dirty laundry on a perfume board. It has NOTHING to do with whether the book is good or not.

    • gigi says:

      And why are you taking offense? Did you write it? Yes, the book is about opinions. And that’s it.

      • Erin T says:

        I’m taking offense because I think such stuff makes MUA a much more boring place to be. Personally, I don’t need numerous lectures about how everybody has an opinion and I’d prefer something new.

        • Jemimagold says:

          Erin- I have to say that I agree with you. I prefer more “lively” discussions too, whether on MUA or anyone else. Sanctimonius comments are dull.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I received my copy yesterday, spent the whole afternoon and evening reading it…and this morning I packed it up in its little Amazon box and prepared to bring it back to the post office.

    I realized, why do I need to pay two highly opinionated individuals for their snarky little opinions (and that’s exactly what these reviews are. Opinions. And you know what they say about opinions…) when there’s a whole blogosphere and forum-sphere out there, full of a variety of judgments and perceptions, all for free?

    They praised five of my favorites to the high heavens (and ripped three to vicious, bloody shreds) but I don’t care. I still think this book was pretty awful.

  • rosarita says:

    I will most likely purchase the book at some point to have on hand for reference, and because it sounds like fun to read. It’s been well documented on this blog and others that perfume fans need some confidence in their loves of choice, and a thick skin, as well! Wear what you love, and if you love it, does another’s opinion really matter? I think perfume criticism is very difficult because it is so subjective. Just the logistics of describing scent are unique and challenging, when compared to describing visual art, for example. Anyhoo, the room for opinions is the size of the universe, after all. Have a great time this weekend! 😡

  • Silvia says:

    I pre-ordered the Guide and I am IMMENSELY looking forward to reading it, much as I enjoy the daily dose of blog perfume reviews by writers whose opinion I respect. And I think LT and TS are definitely worthy of that respect.
    Will it break my heart that my beloved MdO’s Carnation has been ripped apart? The answer is no. Will I run out and buy the 5 stars perfumes untested? No.
    Beside the fix that any perfume junkie gets from reading about their favourite subject, I look forward to the Guide as a source of inspiration to try or re-try scents, with their comments in mind. And I am curious.
    Criticism I only mind is it’s disingenuous and I am pretty sure that LT and TS did an honest job. You definitely did in your 5 o’clock au gingembre piece and I am sure Serge, who is of course a Posse lurker, saw that.

  • Judith says:

    Yay! I preordered the Guide from Amazon, and they told me (yesterday?) that’s it’s on its way. I have regular 2-day delivery (for my work, yeah):) so I am expecting (hoping) that it will come today in time for me to read it on the train to NY. I love reading snarky criticism myself (because I am EVIL>:)), and I think both LT and TS are very witty (though I don’t always agree with them). As for disagreements on scents (with them, you, the divine Serge, etc.), the borrow the words of the immortal Santino: C’mon folks, “Lighten up, it’s just PERRRRFUME!”:d

    Can’t wait for NY!

  • Marina says:

    In the past year or so I realized that Fans (with capital letter) of Lutens are more loyal and more easily offended by the smallest criticism than fans of …the company that starts with C and ends with D. And that’s saying a lot. 8-|

    • Six' says:

      Marina, I had noticed some unfathomable (to me) C***d adoration, but the true, die-hard Serge fanatics of that sort are but a small number, right?
      I mean, I worship the man, but you can tell me straight to my face that MKK smells like some old goat died one week ago and, well, I’ll rather agree, while still loving the stuff to pieces 😉

  • MattS says:

    So if I pre-ordered this from Amazon, is it gonna be waiting for me on the doorstep when I get home or are they just shipping today? I’d love to have this for the weekend with a bottle of wine and some rain. Can’t wait.

    Hope you guys have so much fun this weekend, but are occasionally plagued by the feeling that something…is…missing…wait, wouldn’t it have been great if MattS were here?!!! Love you.

    BTW, I love it when you’re brash, snarky, and your Serge post was the perfect Monday morning read. I woke up ready to tear someone’s head off and was glad to see you give someone the piss. Even dear Serge.

    • Cait says:

      I pre-ordered and got an email yesterday that the book shipped out to me. That should mean it’ll be four days to get to me in AK, about one day more than it would in the lower 48. I did love the original le guide and I can’t wait.

  • benoit says:

    Just a small comment :

    “critique est facile, seul l’art est difficile”

    Is a french proverb which only suggests that creating something is more difficult than judging it. I think we all agree on this point.
    It can also means that the critics are less important than the creation itself. In other words, dont take to much into account the words of critics.

    Even if it is hard to say that, “Perfume is a popular art” … like movies or music. Lots of costumers.
    But if we like really perfume, we need some guide … and luca Turin is a good guide.
    Always light in his words, I am quite sure that 70% of my favorite perfumes will have only one star but my nose is my nose and my brain is my brain. I will not try to love something I dont like especialy in the world of smells.

    Luca Turin looks to be someone who loves to be in the minority.
    In his scientific carrier he is among the rare peopple on erth who dare to prospect in the vibration theory (that s doesn t mean that he is wrong)
    During the 90′, he begin to deliver acid critics in the so lovely world of perfumes.

    He is certainly the only one to possess an international aura in term of “perfume critics”.
    I am interested to know how he will come back in a kind of minority (crushing some classics is a very good first move)

    By the way I hope it is still really pleasant to read, and I dont still dont know how to find it in France.

  • Louise says:

    Sounds like a very fun read/ride. Tell me, though, do you think that some of the reviews/ratings were spcifically meant to shock? Just to get some argument and ire up? Not such a bad thing-it focuses our attention on specific perfumes in the sea of fragrance.

    By the way, it is my ardent belief that perfume truly makes our asses look (or at least feel, at least to us) nicely uplifted and rounded :-j

    See you, doll, tomorrow. Yeah, baby, Sniffa <:-p

    • “some of the reviews/ratings were spcifically meant to shock? Just to get some argument and ire up?”

      Now, there’s a thought!


    • Maria says:

      Hey, Louise, I’m too late to get to March, and I’m probably too late for Patty also. So I’ll try you. Please take a camera to the Sniffa. I want pictures of you dear people I chat with so often. If you don’t have a camera, never mind.

      I’ll be with you in spirit.

      • Patty says:

        I brought my camera!!! Promise to take lots of pictures, but not promises to remember all the names, so I’ll need help there!

  • Lee says:

    I’m unlikely to read the book for a while (at least until my spring distractions clear) but I am already disagreeing with the JCE and Mona di Orio reviews without reading them…

    • Debbie says:

      Yes, when those get panned and Tommy Girl gets praised….

    • Musette says:

      But that’s the whole point, Lee, in my opinion. No matter how exhaustive Tania’s and Luca’s scent experiences are (not to mention Luca’s scientific chops) it still boils down to INDIVIDUAL experience. No matter what, Luca and Tania are sniffing with noses unique to them, as we all do. Even those of us who agree on perfumes can never know exactly what it is we’re agreeing on. I smell wasabi in Muguet soliflores – my friend doesn’t because to her wasabi smells a lot like peppermint!!

      So if Luca says that Chanel No 5 smells like a baked turnip we can only imagine what a baked turnip really smells like to him – could be something way different from the way it smells to another. Same with color: even though you and I agree that blue is blue I will never really know what you see when you see blue!

      This is not to dismiss the guide – I can’t wait to get my copy and devour it – but scent, like color, can’t be quantified unless one can leap into another’s consciousness (and body) whilst still keeping their own! My opinion, anyway!


      • Erin T says:

        Musette, this is a comparison – scent to colour – that drives Luca crazy, just so you know (not that you’ll have a crazed LT on your as*, he doesn’t have time to track down everybody 🙂 ) In my opinion, he’s made some pretty definitive arguments on the “subjectivity” of smell…

        • Musette says:

          I’m not arguing the scent itself, just what it means to each person. How could Luca or anyone else possibly know how an established smell really registers with another, even when we have basic agreed-upon perameters? I’m not suggesting that we all don’t have a good idea of what sulphur smells like, for example…but can Luca definitively identify what it smells like to me (maybe he can!)? Having no scientific background I can’t begin to challenge his theories in any scientific way but even with scent molecules being defined won’t smell still boil down to how I personally identify it? Otherwise, how to explain my friend smelling peppermint in wasabi, where I (and most others I know) get none of that? What does ‘peppermint’ mean to her?

          I hope Luca doesn’t beat me down on this one! In hindsight my whole post referred to the fact that no matter what, Luca and Tania’s reviews are still subjective, in my opinion, and if he smells baked turnip in Chanel No5 and I smell Cheetos is his opinion (opinion ONLY, not scientific data) more valid? By ‘valid’ I mean, should I base a purchase on his opinion rather than my own?

          At least I think that was what I was trying to say – it’s my first cup of coffee!


          • Erin T says:

            Certainly you’re right that your opinion (on what to purchase, for example) should be important to *you*. But as Chandler Burr has said, through some really thoughtful analysis and writing, Luca has made him smell things in (for example) Guerlain classics that he didn’t smell before – turnip, maybe. Of course, Shalimar may mean something different to different people, just as turnip does, but I just don’t think there’s any point in multiple people stressing that multiple times. It’s a given. I think people think that saying something is subjective means that something is meaningless. But there is a reason for giving things categories – the majority commonly agrees on the referent for “blue” and thank God they do.

          • Erin T says:

            I should add that I grew up with Scottish food and turnip means the world to me :d

          • Kim says:

            I think you’re both right. Not everyone will smell the same thing in Chanel No 5, because of their training/experience and because of their individual sense of smell. I get a wonderful animal underbase in Chanel No 5 parfum that not many people talk about so I can only assume that not everyone smells it. Plus, each person’s experience/association will be different – others will not associate my wonderful grandmother with Chanel No 5 like I do! But then that is the beauty of perfume – that it can take us these places and be so wonderful for each individual! So, although I don’t care for the Mono di Orio line, I still value the opinions of those who love it since they probably have much to teach me – sometimes I learn more from those with whom I disagree and that is the wonderful thing about the Posse – I learn so much about perfume !! 🙂 😡

          • Musette says:


            I think/hope that you and I may be agreeing on much here. I have enormous respect for Luca and Tania’s expertise and experience and my post wasn’t meant to denigrate their efforts in any way (as I said, I’m excited to read the book). What I really was musing upon was the notion of any agreed-upon standards and how they come about,as we humans get along each day by adopting those standards, without really ever questioning them (I stop at a red light for all the obvious reasons:-).

            But I do think that people have the right – and possibly the need – to remind themselves and others that those who critique a work are offering a subjective opinion, albeit an important opinion that can offer many insights (Wendy and Divalano say it better than I am saying it here – I’m a little logy with a cold). I don’t think that opinion is meaningless because it’s subjective but we may respectfully agree to disagree here. My own opinion is that Turin’s and his peers’ opinions are more important to the perfume world than my own (and may heavily influence my own buying considerations)..and that’s okay by me! Whew! That’s a lot of ‘opinions’!!!!

            ps. I like turnips, too, and a turnip note might be interesting!

          • Erin T says:

            Paging Iris Silver Mist!

          • Musette says:

            are you serious?:o

          • Erin T says:

            Totally smells like root vegetables to me (that’s a good thing!)

  • Anthony says:

    I don’t know if you’ll read this since you are on your way to NYC (NO FAIRRR!!!) but I’m so curious to read your list of shockers! 🙂

  • wrong icon: should have been the Whistling one……duh….

  • I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, and I think in my own review of the book on “Prfume Shrine”I highlighted much of the same issues, which makes me think I am not that crazy after all, LOL!

    It’s true that there seems a subjectiveness to the whole thing, but then evaluating something which has inherent difficulty in being qualitatively (if not quantitatively, meaning in measuring good materials etc) judged is a Titanic task, therefore the book is good fun and a good resource on many subtler issues.

    Mona di Orio (and Lorenzo Villoresi for that matter) must feel very weird, though, I know (the comment on her looks seemed like hit below the belt to me, but anyway).

    Funny: the editor never restricted me from running my review almost 10 days ago,so I am counting my blessings they perceive me as small potatoes, LOL :-\”