A few years ago many of us were fascinated by the BBC documentary series Perfume. It's no longer available on iPlayer, but I've just discovered it on Youtube, so for anyone who wants to see it again, or for those who couldn't watch due to geographical restrictions, you can find it there.
Following the series I read and loved The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur by Jean-Claude Ellena, the "philosopher-nose" who is featured in programme 2 (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4); there's an introductory post on the book here and a short extract from it here. In the documentary, M. Ellena is described as "making fragrance inspired by fantasy", and I am currently much taken with one of his "olfactory masterpieces" for Frederic Malle, L'Eau d'Hiver. Luca Turin classifies it, in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, as "pale almonds", and begins its entry thus:
"One of the dangers of the new French school of perfumery typified by Jean-Claude Ellena is the lure of bloodless overrefinement, what I would describe as Ravel's* disease: wonderfully crafted, elegantly orchestrated pieces drenched in pale sunlight." He goes on to talk about Ellena's treatment of the fragrance's mimosa note of heliotropin and says, "the result is stunning: an elegiac, powdery, almonds-and-water accord that takes its place [...] among the fragrance Ophelias of this world."
To me it seems understated and effortlessly, seamlessly beautiful, simultaneously warm and cool, serene.
If you want an in-depth look at the chemistry and neuroscience of olfaction and the art and culture of perfume, how about this Secret of Scent course with Luca Turin and Bois de Jasmin's Victoria Frolova? Sounds wonderful.
And one more thing, The Perfume Society has a 'Fragrance Editor', an online search device which helps you find scents based on your perfume preferences. I've no idea how accurate it is, but testing it could be fun.
*... see Wednesday's post!