New York Times scent critic and author Chandler Burr once again delves into the glamorous, competitive world of perfume in his latest book, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. Burr will be at the Decatur Library on Friday, Feb. 21, at 7:15 p.m.
Did you consider a "scratch and sniff" version? We wanted a scratch and sniff, but my publisher Henry Holtz and the distributor and the bookstores – now, this is what I was told by the publisher; I do not have any first-degree information on this – they told me the bookstores would not do it. They didn't like the idea. They were nervous about it. They thought the customers would be nervous about it.
Talk a little bit about the writing technique you used to convey sensations. One thing that I have tried to do in my own perfume criticism is rely most heavily on metaphors, and, by contrast, as little as possible on adjectives. Metaphorical description is, with olfaction, I believe more powerful, and in an almost paradoxical way, more precise. If you're going to convey the perfume, you have to convey not only what it smells like ... but what the experience is like, perhaps even more importantly – i.e., the sensation of standing in a desert on a flat, dusty, dry bed of desiccated silicate that stretches superceded as far as the eye can see. That is the way I would describe a molecule called Z-11.
Do you have automatic descriptions for different molecules already in your head that are go-to descriptions every time? For some, yes. For a molecule called allyl amyl glycolate ... the set description, just because it's so accurate, is a combination of the smell of processed pineapple and the tin of the can it comes in. We've all smelled that peculiar, sweetish, almost cloying fruit mixed with the faint olfactory residue of that cheap metal.
What are your favorite smells? One of my least favorite smells is leather. I hate it, and for all leather perfumes I have to be very careful to distance myself and be as objective as I possibly can ... I am not a fan of tar, which is given by a raw material called birch wood, among others. And there are people who love tar, by the way. ... Smells I love – there's so many of them. But I think my favorite might be the smell of hay.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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