It’s become a rite of passage for perfume experts to author their own history of perfume should a book deal come their way. Jean-Claude Ellena offered an abridged version in The Alchemy of Scent. Mandy Aftel wrote a natural history of perfume in her book entitled Essence and Alchemy. Roja Dove’s The Essence of Perfume is one of my favourite books on the topic of perfume history. It is filled with large glossy printed perfume eye candy, vintage advertisements and pictures of the author’s rare perfume collection. For readers with little knowledge of perfumery The Essence of Perfume is a great introduction. It begins with a basic description of how human olfaction works along with modern perfumery practices. This includes a Michael Edwards-esque olfactory description of perfume’s common raw materials and how they are used to construct different fragrance families. Dove writes about the most influential perfume houses of the past century and the bottles makers whose work in glass and crystal Dove points out is often “the last physical souvenir of a sometimes long forgotten scent.” More experienced readers should appreciate Dove’s writings on the classics. Dove has divided them by decade beginning with the birth of modern perfumery at the end of the 19th century and finishing with the launch of Roja Dove’s own trilogy of perfumes in 2007. Although this book makes a focus of the classics in women’s perfume, I often find myself exploring the pages in search of something men could discover. From Guerlain’s Jicky (1889) a perfume that was recast into a feminine form after it failed as a masculine or Diorella (1972), critic Luca Turin describes as “one of the best masculines money can buy”, there is more than enough content in the book to keep male readers engaged with possibilities.
Roja Dove is known as a Professeur des Parfums having begun his career with Guerlain. His interest in the brand grew from a visit to Guerlain’s Champs-Elysees maison at the age of 21. After a young Dove bombarded the Guerlain family for requests to join them as a trainee, his wish was eventually fulfilled when Robert Guerlain took the young neophyte under his wing. Spending almost two decades with the brand, Dove’s intimate understanding of the house is reflected in the depth with which he writes about some of Guerlain’s historic creations. His love for the ‘golden age’ of perfume is apparent in his writing and his own collection of Roja Dove perfumes, which all has a classical style.
I recommend a visit to Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie on your next visit to London. The dark attic-like room in the upper levels of Harrods department store holds an impressive collection of the world’s finest perfumes. I also recommend taking additional spending money as Roja Dove’s taste for all things classic extends to a taste for all things extravagant. On my next trip to London I plan to stop by and experience his new Vetiver (2012), others say shares similarities with the pre-reformulated Guerlain Vetiver, one of my all time favourite scents.
ISBN-10: 1907317015, ISBN-13: 978-1907317019
English, 272 pages, 2010