The Perfect Scent

(Nonfiction; Henry Holt, 2007)

In the last five years, Chandler Burr has dragged the sense of smell—a reptilian and darkly visceral element of human experience—into the bright light of journalistic day, first with The Emperor of Scent, a book-length profile of a biophysicist locked in a backstabbing race to identify how the sense of smell functions, and most recently in the New York Times with a perfume column, a beat unconsidered till now. Perfume, it turns out, is a multi-billion dollar industry, and in The Perfect Scent Burr reports on the race to create, produce, and market two mass-market commercial perfumes. The wonder is that for all the glass bottles on all the dresser tops, for all the times the reader has dodged a spray-lady at the entrance to Nordstrom’s, perfume has remained an unconsidered mystery. How is it that no one has ever peered behind the curtain of this intensely secretive and cutthroat industry?

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