Cathy Newman's Perfume is a coffee table book, complete with lots of glossy photographs by Robb Kendrick. It is also a wonderful introduction to the world of fragrance development and marketing. Up until a few years ago, I never gave a minute's thought to how perfumes were created. I probably suspected that Calvin Klein didn't throw on a lab coat and mix up the formula for Eternity himself, but if you had told me that "noses" at a few companies produced the majority of the world's fragrances, I would have been quite surprised.
In Perfume, Newman takes us behind the scenes as she undertakes the process of commissioning a new perfume. She starts by creating a brief, or description of what kind of scent she wants, then issues it to several perfumers at Firmenich, including Thierry Wasser, Annie Buzantian, and Harry Fremont. We then follow along as she tests their submissions, asks for modifications, and makes her selections.
Along the way, we are given a brief history of perfume, including a side trip to the Osmotheque in Versailles. Newman also covers topics such as the art of the perfumer; raw materials, both natural and synthetic; and perfume marketing.
Perfume is an illuminating introduction to the subject for a beginner, and even old hands will probably learn a thing or two. It was published by The National Geographic Society in 1998; I suspect that it is now out of print, but used copies are easily found.