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.