Hardie Grant’s Le Snob series is like a collection of beautifully designed travel guides to various luxury destinations. Except, that in the case of this series, the destinations are Champagne, Cigars, Lingerie, Perfume, Shoes, Tailoring and Whisky.
I’m going to tell you a little bit more about Le Snob: Perfume because I have had the opportunity to get to know the author and although he doesn’t need my help (the book has received rave reviews), I really do think this is a good addition to every perfume library.
The book itself is beautiful as an object and compact enough to slip into your handbag as you pop to London for a spot of perfume shopping. As much as I adore Perfumes, The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, it IS a hefty volume in its dead-tree form and not all that convenient to carry with you and whip out on the perfume counter (I have tried).
Beautiful perfume bottle illustrations by Tonwen Jones are scattered throughout and the rest of the book design is pleasing to the eye and actually makes the guide easier to use.
The book is split into nine sections:
- Mainstream: Feminine
- Manstream: Masculine
- Mainstream: Unisex
- Niche: Feminine
- Niche: Masculine
- Niche: Unisex
There are helpful “Words From The Wise” sections with advice from such industry illuminaries as Francis Kurkdjian, Andy Tauer, Linda Pilkington, Christopher Chong and Roja Dove, covering issues from “the sex of a scent” to “the pros and cons of synthetics.”
Author Dariush Alavi deftly summarises complex topics into easy-to-understand glimpses behind the scenes of a still rather secretive industry. His background in teaching helps here, I think.
The perfume recommendations are clearly a selection of personal favourites and must-mention classics. Although the book is aimed at the luxury consumer its tone is far from snobbish. All you detect is a burning passion for perfumery and an appreciation for style and quality, regardless of the brand. It clearly cannot be a comprehensive guide to the best of everything perfume has to offer, but think of it as the equivalent of taking a knowledgeable friend out with you to explore perfumes. It would be a good place to start for any budding perfumista.
There are a few obligatory luxury details, such as highlighting the £7000 gold-etched Baccarat bottles of Phul-Nana, Shem-El-Nessim and Hasu-No-Hana from Grossmith.
I did know most of the perfumes covered in the book but was so drawn to the author’s description of Comme Des Garçons 2 Man that I had to sniff it at the earliest opportunity:
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Mark Buxton’s creation is about snuffed candle smoke: the note is present, but it isn’t the driving force behind the perfume’s effect. It wouldn’t be right to plump for incense either. Again, that would indicate a rudimentary comprehension of the scent, as would cedar and leather (although both are noticeable). The truth is that this is a mysterious, elusive piece of work. If you can imagine some sort of quasi-mythical apparition composed of the aforementioned elements, you might begin to get some idea of how the fragrance operates, but the best thing would be just to smell it.
Overall, I would encourage every perfume afficionado to to get a copy of this useful little guide. You will learn something new and quite possibly discover new favourite scents.