Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy AftelSomeone saw me reading this book, and the comment was, But you dont even like perfumes!
Thats partly true. I dont like synthetic perfumes. I dont like being bombarded by someones overzealous application of scent. I dont like synthetic fragrance. (Every time someone tells me their homemade soap or perfume has only the best all-natural essential oil of banana/cucumber/lilac/fill in blank with any other synthetic scent masquerading as natural oil, I cringe. There is no such thing as cucumber EO.) Now, what I do like are things that smell good and are subtle. I like history. I like thinking about an everyday thing in a new way or understanding how something works and why.
This is a book that likely receives both more praise and more criticism than it deserves, but how well one likes this book will depend on why one is reading it. Its neither a how to book nor a straight history, but it contains elements of both. Within the how to part, the author does much better with the explanation of how scent affects (most) people and how to approach the process of building a fragrance blend than she does the nuts-and-bolts of making a specific perfume. There are recipes, but they are either skewed to her preferences -- and she seems to be overly fond of floral and sweet scents-- or contain ingredients that are unlikely to be within the budget (or accessibility) of a hobbyist. Within the history part, she does a nice job of covering how alchemy and perfume-making are related, the history of using scents for ritual and pleasure, and the beginning of the perfume trade; however, dont expect to find the scuttlebutt about the big perfume houses or famous brands.
Because I was reading it for entertainment and as a general history of fragrance, I enjoyed it. The author has a lovely writing style, sensuous and descriptive, although she comes off a little assumptive in a few spots. (No, everyone does not like rose or ylang-ylang and everyone does not like sweet powdery finishes.) The writing reminded me a little of Diane Ackermans A Natural History of the Senses.
I found her recipes the least interesting part of the book, but I understand that she is including them as exercises on how to train ones sense of smell. For me, the best parts of the book were the history of how fragrance has been used throughout various ages/cultures and the section comparing building a fragrance to composing music.
There is a substantial bibliography, and the text is indexed and sourced. The vendor list is likely out of date, but perhaps will be updated in e-book format.
In all, an interesting and enjoyable read.
The Natural Alchemy of Mandy Aftel
For centuries, people have taken what seems to be an instinctive pleasure in rubbing scents into their skin. Perfume has helped them to pray, to heal, and to make love. And as long as there has been perfume, there have been perfumers, or rather the priests, shamans, and apothecaries who were their predecessors.
Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume
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Every obsessive has a book that started it all for them, the gateway drug into a world of exploration. This is the book that opened up the idea for me that I could learn more about scents, sniffing, and perfuming and that I could remake the world of smelling in my own way.
the right to hunt and fish
A Book of Perfume
Qty : Please note there is a week delivery period for this title. As long as there has been passion, there has been perfume. Wealthy Romans used to scent their doves while in Shakespeare's time, a woman in love would place a peeled apple into her armpit to saturate it with her scent and then present it to her lover. Essence And Alchemy resurrects the social and metaphysical legacy that is entwined with the evolution of perfumery, from the dramas of the spice trade to the quests of the alchemists. Aftel tracks scent through the boudoir and the bath and into the sanctums of worship, and along the way teaches us the art of perfume-making, including many of her own recipes, offering insights on the relationship of scent to solitude, sex, and soul. You can unsubscribe from newsletters at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in any newsletter.
Mandy Aftel born is an American perfumer. She is the owner and nose behind the natural perfume line Aftelier as well as the author of nine books, including four books on natural perfume and a cookbook on essential oils. Mandy Aftel was born in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan , where she studied English and psychology in college,  then earned a master's degree in counseling. Aftel began her career as a psychotherapist in Berkeley , with a practice focused on artists and writers. Aftel is also an author herself, publishing several books in the s and s including a biography of Brian Jones. She became interested in scent while working on a novel;  envisioning her protagonist would be a perfumer, Aftel began collecting rare books on perfume as part of her research, but ultimately wrote a book on the history of perfume instead. The result, Essence and Alchemy , was published in