I am an active member of several online fragrance communities. Much discussion and debate has ensued following the release of Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's book Perfumes: The Guide. So, I decided to see for myself what the fuss was all about. Here is an excerpt from the published book description:
"...a definitive guide to the world of perfume. Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez are experts in the world of scent. Turin, a renowned scientist, and Sanchez, a longtime perfume critic, have spent years sniffing the world's most elegant and beautiful as well as some truly terrible perfumes. In "Perfumes: The Guide," they combine their talents and experience to review more than twelve hundred fragrances, separating the divine from the good from the monumentally awful. Through witty, irreverent, and illuminating prose, the reviews in "Perfumes" not only provide consumers with an essential guide to shopping for fragrance, but also make for a unique reading experience..."
So, I had high hopes.
I was disappointed.
After reading Chandler Burr's "Emperor of Scent", one can't help acknowledge that Turin's understanding of perfume from a molecular and biological perspective, is staggering. In terms of my own edification, I learned much from EOS, and found it a very compelling read. Burr's dynamic writing style in particular, paints a portrait of Turin as a man whose eccentricities and, at times outlandish work practices were often overlooked because of his natural drive and academic aptitude. Thus, one can't help feel Turin is revered as somewhat of a demigod in his scientific profession.
But this unfortunately does not ring true for his abilities as an author or a critic. In fact, I find the majority of the reviews in THE GUIDE self-indulgent, slap-hazard and extremely inconsistent.
I think when one - whose knowledge is revered by a great many - fails to deliver dependable, penetrating insights across the board, and instead, favors wise-cracking remarks or insubstantial criticisms to flesh out the pages; then its best to leave well enough alone. Turin's efforts I feel, are best spent in the laboratory, or out in the field - not between the pages of a book.
To my mind, Tania Sanchez's insights are, more often than not, equally as redundant. I don't feel that simply having a love and appreciation of fine fragrances endows one with the shrewdness and practical knowledge required to consistently write credible, objective, critical appraisals. Her evaluations are peppered with tongue-in-cheek humor and flippant declarations that I feel don't always win out over the sensitivity with which some of these scents deserve to be treated. Comedic one-liners do not make for illuminating reading.
It would also appear that in Sanchez & Turin's world, Cool Water seems to be the yardstick against which all men's commercial scents that have followed, are measured. In addition, I often found myself "tut-tutting" where criticism of a scent was overlooked in favour of criticism of the wearer. Also, whilst certain scents were being reviewed, many others were referenced... very few of which actually made it into the pages of the book! It's precisely this kind of inconsistent subjective claptrap that I find hard to swallow in The Guide.
OK, kudos to them both for upping off their asses and getting out there and walking the walk. No one can deny Turin's passion and contribution to the science, but to the total sum of their "insights" in The Guide, I will absolutely not subscribe.