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.