The Perfect Scent
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The Scoop

When the New Yorker magazine sent Chandler Burr to Paris and inside the luxury goods maker Hermès, Burr began what would become a year of reporting on perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. Ellena was starting the creation of a new Hermès perfume. He was an industry legend who could smell the difference between jasmine absolutes distilled in steel or in aluminum, but he was just assuming a position no one had ever occupied-official Hermès perfumer-and would be shouldering responsibility for the total restructuring and revival of the house's troubled multi-million dollar perfume business. Hermès had agreed to give Burr complete internal access to watch Ellena and its marketers create, from beginning to end, their next scent, which they would be launching one year later on the $31 billion perfume market.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the New York Times asked Burr to profile the actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who had just signed a license agreement with Coty, Inc. to create her own scent. Parker was-with a mixture of excitement and fear-assuming a role she had never played before, that of perfume creative director. She was entering a risky, brutally competitive world. Parker and Coty invited Burr to come along . . .

The Perfect Scent is Burr's behind-the-scenes report from the secretive, high-pressure, and virtually unknown scent industry, where he would spend an intimate year with two personalities-and their two perfumes-who could not have been more different.

Burr attended corporate strategic meetings, sat in on confidential creative sessions, listened to financial briefings, and here he presents word-for-word conversations with the players in Paris and Manhattan, at every step of the process. The result is a remarkable work of reporting on both art and business, a journey through a secretive and astonishing industry, and a nuanced portrait of two people, Ellena and Parker, who both were setting out to create the perfect scent.

The Perfect Scent Sizes Available
336 pgs $25
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Here's what other people are saying about The Perfect Scent...
I am sorry to add to the negativity; but I really can't take this man has seriously. His greatest fault in my opinion is that in everything he has written that I have read, he simply refuses to acknowledge, or at very best only gives a mere mention to one of perfumes greatest talents. F. Coty. I find this unbelievable.
By   - No longer have one. from Nr. Portland OR on 12/7/2015
I'm so glad I'm not the only one who noticed the overwhelming ego of the author. Not to mention his starry-eyed celebrity worshipping. Having said that, it is a very interesting book about processes, marketing, molecules, and all that. Give it a try.
By  on 6/25/2008
This is a delicious rare read! Even though at times I had a hard time getting over Mr. Burr's gigantic ego (like describing a dinner by himself and his workout in the hotel gym in Paris?!) it is still for the most part compulsory reading: it is difficult to put down for perfume aficionados, and quite unique in terms of its coverage of the industry. You gag at times at the excesses and egos in it (including that of the author), but on the whole I wish there were more books like it out there.
By   - from Philadelphia on 6/22/2008
I chose Burr's first scent-oriented book, "The Emperor of Scent" on a lark, and now I'm a devoted "perfume hobbyist". The book is divided into the story of Hermes creation of Jardin sur le Nil in Paris and Grasse, and Coty + IFF's project (in New York) to bring a fragrance to market with Sarah Jessica Parker, which of course became Lovely. The wonderful thing here is the juxtaposition of the creative process in France versus New York - French versus American, tradition versus commerce, commercial versus exclusive - documented with a writer's eye for the 'characters' and science writer's fascination for the minutiae of the process. Read this book if: you are curious how a fragrance is developed, who does the actual 'creating', how the bottle design is chosen and manufactured, how the marketing machine works, whether "natural" = "superior" when it comes to ingredients, what is a perfume actually comprised of, or you are a fan of Hermes or SJP herself. Bonus: reads like a 'lite' biography of Sarah Jessica Parket - and she makes a lasting impression (in a very good way). PS - like Burr's first book, another treasure-trove of recommendations and deconstructions for fragranceophiles!
By   - Software Development from Washington, DC on 2/27/2008
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