Monday 9 July 2018

PERFUMES: THE GUIDE 2018 by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

A critic, a reviewer, or an expert of any kind is never going to be able to please everybody. What one person sees as art another will see as wallpaper, what one person hears as music another will hear as white noise, and what one person smells as perfume another will smell as "pine-fresh lavatory cleaner". Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez have released their long awaited Perfumes: The Guide 2018, the follow-up to their 2008 industry-changing Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, and in the first two weeks of its release the internet has been flooded with smiles, laughter, tears and tantrums. So, what is it all about?

When Luca and Tania released their first book it dealt primarily with major companies and well-known fragrances. It was the first time that perfume criticism had really been in the mainstream press and it set the benchmark for most of the bloggers and vloggers that were to follow. The duo gave a “warts and all” approach to their reviews and were not afraid to take on the big corporations. If they didn’t like something then they said so and, if you were lucky, it was tempered with caustic wit.

Many reviewers have tried to copy Tania and Luca’s style in the years that followed Perfumes: The A-Z Guide but they all lacked the humorous storytelling put-downs that seemed to come so naturally to the pair. Tania famously described one fragrance as “shrieking hair-singeing horror, probably first rejected for use in industrial drain cleaner,” whilst Luca countered in one of his reviews simply with the word “repellent.” Their style was direct and nothing was off-limits, which may explain why it achieved an almost cult status amongst perfume fans.

Perfumes: The Guide 2018 takes a slightly different direction to the first book with a large wealth of “niche” or “independent” companies sitting alongside the more established names. The smaller brands were asked to submit their fragrances for inclusion and so it was up to the owners if they wanted to take the gamble. Many did, and the scores ranged from one star to the coveted five stars, but when the book was released there were some unhappy faces. As I said at the beginning, “a critic, a reviewer, or an expert of any kind is never going to be able to please everybody.”

What is interesting is that the fans of the “niche” companies were much quicker to defend their favourites than the fans of the established brands. It seemed that it had been taken personally but, as Luca replied on twitter, “if you sell a fragrance as an artisan for more money than Antaeus or Shalimar, you should be judged accordingly. This is no longer a Crafts Fair, no more excuses.” It's always a shame if an article doesn’t praise your favourite fragrance, but that is the life of a reviewer.

Perfumes: The Guide 2018 is a wonderful roller coaster of opinion but it’s also refreshing to see some companies finally getting the recognition they deserve. Fragonard, for too long just seen as a “tourist perfumer”, gets a four star rating for L’Aventurier whilst Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery receives the same rating for four of her five fragrances. It is unfortunate that some excellent companies seem to have suffered because of questionable art direction but, if a fragrance is released under a brand name, it must be judged accordingly. The actor David Niven once said, “I shall go on yelling ‘tripe’ whenever tripe is served,” and I think that is definitely the sentiment of Luca and Tania.

Perfumes: The Guide 2018 is available from Amazon as a Kindle eBook priced at £7.40 and also as a Paperback priced at £12.86. [Paperback was gifted but I bought the eBook]


  1. “if you sell a fragrance as an artisan for more money than Antaeus or Shalimar, you should be judged accordingly. This is no longer a Crafts Fair, no more excuses.” I have mixed feelings about this remark by Luca, for indie perfumers don't always get the bulk price huge companies do for the aromachemicals they use in their formula. Some maybe pricy simply because of the cost of the materials, not because they want to make a gamble to price them higher than Shalimar.

    1. Hello Victor, I agree that economies of scale affect an independent’s price point but there still has to be a quality within the product. Perfumers do need to justify the higher price, it can’t be simply to exploit the “niche” fans. As a side note, I am finding Hyrax fascinating. Best, Stephan

  2. Dear Stephan,
    that's the point:
    what means "questionable art direction"
    Please find my statement for
    @ THE PERFUME GUIDE by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez
    in my NEWS BLOG

    Sven Pritzkoleit / SP PARFUMS

    1. Hello Sven, the “questionable art direction” comment relates to instances in the book where Luca and Tania see it as the reason for the failure of particular fragrances. I wore Lignum Vitae Forte to the theatre tonight by the way and it was perfect. Best, Stephan

  3. Great article, I just want to mention that Fragonard also has 4 stars review in 2008 Perfumes book for Cologne Grand Luxe.

    1. Hello Sotir, thank you for you comment. You're right that Fragonard is also mentioned in the previous book. Best, Stephan