*Before I continue: I'm having a wonderful giveaway for a bottle of Aftelier Sepia perfume. Click here to enter*
The perfume community knows Dariush Alavi as the blogger Persolaise. Hopefully his perfume guide from Le Snob series will bring his name (and our little perfume hobby) to a much bigger audience. As far as I know, Le Snob is a UK thing, delightfully different than The Idiot's Guide. These pocket-size hardcovers (there are "Snobs" for champagne, lingerie, shoes, and many other worldly pleasures) are pretty and aim to give you not just the basics but also the means to appreciate and evaluate the subject. Thus, Perfume by Dariush Alavi offers brief essays about the fundamentals of fragrance, teaches the basic vocabulary, and gives a one paragraph review of classics, best sellers, and carefully selected niche treasures.
The writing is compact and wonderfully precise. The structure and flow are clear, the categories (mainstream/niche/masculine/feminine/unisex) make sense whether you're a newcomer to perfume or an old fragonerd. So do the reviews, even if and when one strongly disagrees with them (the mere fact that Hermes' catastrophic Un Jardin Apres la Mousson appears in the book makes me wrinkle my nose. But I do get what Alavi is saying. Kind of). It's a crash course in what to smell, the suggestions of what to buy and wear are good (Mousson notwithstanding), and the blurbs from prominent perfume figures (Roja Dove, Andy Tauer, Francis Kurkdjian and others) add interest and flavor to the mix. The illustrations (by Tonwen Jones) add extra charm to the book (I'd love to hang the original one of Onda on my wall) and will also make it a really nice gift.
Which brings us to what I call "my sister's test". See, my sister enjoys perfume and wears it daily, but has never crossed the line into my (and most likely your) level of obsession. When reviewing perfume books I often ask myself how she's going to look at it: will she find it enjoyable? informative? will she hurl it at my head? In the case of Dariush Alavi's Perfume I think it's something that may make more people with a similar non-committal fondness sniff a new-to-them fragrance, form an opinion about it and do some extra research. As for the fragonerds, the "Fundementals" chapter will probably not teach us anything new, but those of us who read perfume reviews with our morning tea will find Alavi's point of view interesting and enlightening (Tommy Girl doesn't make an appearance. Tom Of Finland does).
At this time Le Snob: Perfume is only available in the UK. You can do as I did and order it from Amazon.co.uk (or other online retailers).