The Essence of Perfume – new book by Roja Dove

I’m looking at my big, beautiful coffee table book from Roja Dove, The Essence of Perfume.    Before I begin, I haven’t read this cover to cover, just have jumped around in it to get a feel for it, but I have heard from others that there are some glaring typos that will annoy the spelling obsessed (yes, I’m one, along with commas and apostrophes), but I don’t think it’s enough to ruin your enjoyment of the book. 

The book covers the sense of smell in a brief chapter, then launches into the birth of modern perfumery.  Methods of extraction is a little dry because it covers the science of capturing scent, but I found it an interesting chapter that didn’t get horribly bogged down in technical mumbo-jumbo.

His next chapter on raw materials is somehwhat exhaustive as a reference, without being tedious in the least or becoming a perfume dictionary.  It covers synthetics, naturals and aldehydes, listing each of the naturals and where it is derived from, but just covering the more important synthetics, which is probably about as much as any of us care to know.

After covering the perfumer and the basics of perfumerie, he goes into my favorite chapter, Roja’s picks for the classics in each decade and why.  He’s put together a great list of old favorites and some I’ve never tried.  I’m taking my time on this chapter, it is the one to relish, full of history and beautiful pictures of ads and old bottles of perfume.  It’s an excellent reference chapter on understanding the trends that have shaped perfumery over the decades and just a joy to read through.

He also covers the designers and the bottle makers, the latter an orgy of beautiful perfume bottle pr0n that has left me a little breathless.

The Essence of Perfume is $44 from Amazon.  Roja’s love of perfume comes through, along with a wealth of anecdotes and history.  Well-written and not snobbish, though a few of the quotes in the back had me rolling my eyes (“Roja is a god” please!), it is a book I’d recommend for any perfumista. 

  • Elle says:

    Look really forward to reading this – typos or not. Am very interested in the raw materials section and in seeing what scents he lists as classics – always enjoy hunting for new vintage scents on ebay. Thanks for the review!

  • Louise says:

    I’ve yet to read “The Guide”, so won’t invest in this now. But it does sound like I’d enjoy browsing through this lifted from a friend’s coffee table. Hi Melissa!

    My dyslexia prevents me from commenting on spelling errors (and I’m supposed to teach language to our country’s youth!) 8-|

  • Lee says:

    I’m an accuracy freak (the English teacher in me, ain’t it, babe’s… – arf – ), so it would bug the butt off me.

    But I’m glad it’s purty.

  • Melissa says:

    I think I could buy this and appreciate it as a “big, beautiful coffee table book”, as you so aptly noted. Like Francesca, I shook my head at the ad copy. But it does sound as if the mixture of science, fragrance picks and bottle porn would be fine for the living room.

  • Francesca says:

    I was wondering about this book and hoping I could see a copy before buying. It sounds really interesting…but! A lot of typos and spelling errors would really annoy me. Plus the ad copy put me off. The world’s only Professeur de Parfums? What does that mean? I guess I’m just as on the fence as I was before.

    Vote early, and often!

    • Patty says:

      You guys make me really glad I did NOT read any of the ad copy!

    • Musette says:


      I fear the arts of copyediting/editing are lost to us so you might as well do as I do and just squinch your eyes, grit your teeth, growl quietly at each typo and grammatical error and move on. I just had someone take exception (AFTER they’d asked me to edit!) when I changed “Mom’s” (possessive) to “Moms”; the sentence read: “This is for all you new Moms out there” (never mind the unnecessary capitalization of “Moms”)



      ps. “vote early and often”? You must live in my Sweet Home, Chicago! We are well known for that!!!=))

      • Francesca says:

        I’m lucky enough to work for an imprint with excellent copyeditors and proofreaders, but I, too, cringe at the bad grammar in a lot of books from other publishers. And the crash schedules many books are on now mean that even the most careful proofreader will inevitably miss stuff.

        Glad I gave you a LOL!

      • March the Silly says:

        Voted twice already! 😉 I lurve Chicago. 😡

  • carmencanada says:

    Another thing bothers me about this book, apart from the typos and spelling mistakes : the fact that Roja includes his own trio of fragrances (Enslaved, Unspoken, Scandal) in his selection of the great fragrances of the 2000s. They’re good, but epoch-making they’re not, and the addition to the list somewhat strikes me as not quite elegant.
    Those are all details, but they detracted from the enjoyment enough for me not to buy the book.

    • Patty says:

      You know, I actually gave him a pass on that. He did have them made, he obviously thinks they’re great, and he more obviously has an ego. So with all that, it would be just weird not to have it in there somewhere. Agree that they don’t land in the best of 2000. Actually his whole 2000 category was a complete whiff, I agreed with none of his choices.

    • March the Indecisive says:

      Denyse — please don’t take this the wrong way — I wonder whether Americans find that kind of tootling of one’s own horn to be less obnoxious than the French might? Although come to think of it, maybe you’re Canadian? :”>

      My understanding is Brits find it really obnoxious but maybe I’m wrong. I personally would have been surprised if he hadn’t listed them; that’s how American I am. 😉

      Beyond that I have not seen the book and have no comment except: where ARE the editors? Is editing not seen as crucial any more? Even the NY Times is getting sloppy, I saw “poured over” instead of “pored over” on Sunday.

      • Lee says:

        Us Brits do find it obnoxious, though I’m trying hard to get over it.

        Hope y’all are voting hard!

        • March says:

          early and often, hon. Stay tuned. Where’s my fingers crossed emoticon?


          • barbara says:

            early and often, as the saying goes here in Chicago-where is the Grant Park perfume???…Europeans hate “flash”. I will however, be adding this book to my collection

      • carmencanada says:

        March(and Patty) I am Canadian, but very Europeanized I guess: I’m of the school of “you can’t be judge and party”. I think tooting one’s own horn detracts from one’s credibility as an expert: it makes the book look like an elaborate promotional operation. I’m sure I’m being unfair and grumpy, but then Parisians are well known for being very critical of everything, and I’m nothing if not Parisian after all those years…:>

        • Shelley says:

          I’m American…and would find it somewhat obnoxious. :-w :)>-

        • March says:

          I think you are right in your perspective. I am amused at my own mass-market-driven assumptions that *of course* he’d list his own as genius. Of course as P points out the man didn’t get where he is on his lack of ego.

          I am rather fond of Unspoken.

    • Louise says:

      It just plain strikes me as self-referral, same as when a doctor does so >:p And jsut plain tacky l-)

  • tmp00 says:

    A new one to the reading list!

    Go vote everyone!:d

  • mikeperez23 says:

    Thanks for the reminder, to add this one to my Santa list. Here’s seeing if I can wait that long. 🙂

  • mollypenny says:

    Perfect xmas gift for myself, thanks! 😮