The Scent Trail: How One Woman's Quest for the Perfect Perfume Took Her Around the World

Overview

Lyttelton's passion for fragrance inspired her to have a signature perfume created just for her-and then to embark on the ultimate olfactory odyssey. Armed with a list of ingredients, she tracked down each component of her scent, tracing its origins, history, and culture.

From the iris fields of Tuscany to the vetivert distilleries of India, from the nutmeg plantations of Sri Lanka to the shores of the Arabian Sea, Celia gives readers a glimpse into the world of scent that few ...

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The Scent Trail: How One Woman's Quest for the Perfect Perfume Took Her Around the World

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Overview

Lyttelton's passion for fragrance inspired her to have a signature perfume created just for her-and then to embark on the ultimate olfactory odyssey. Armed with a list of ingredients, she tracked down each component of her scent, tracing its origins, history, and culture.

From the iris fields of Tuscany to the vetivert distilleries of India, from the nutmeg plantations of Sri Lanka to the shores of the Arabian Sea, Celia gives readers a glimpse into the world of scent that few people have ever experienced, providing delicious details on its place in history-for example, how Casanova added small amounts of ambergris to chocolate mousses to aid his amorous adventures, and how Charles Dickens carried a monogrammed pocket nutmeg grater in his waist coat at a time when nutmeg was used to ward off evil and to spice rum.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

For globe-trotting British journalist Lyttelton, "scent evokes memories." Such memories from her childhood, when she traveled with her archeologist mother to distant countries, led her to embark on a quest to find scent origins around the world. Seeking her own "bespoke" perfume, she visits a London perfumer, introducing readers to the delicate art of composing a perfume, evoking, for instance, "a forest at dawn soaked in dew" or, more abstractly, a piece of music. With her own formula in hand, Lyttelton sets out to visit places where the ingredients are grown, hoping to meet the harvesters, encounter fragrant fumes and discover the secrets of perfume making. Lyttelton has a magical manner of blending words and sentences to summon up splendiferous odors amid her anecdotes, memories and historical research. Scented sentences permeate the pages as she takes the reader along on her "olfactory odyssey" across far-flung, labyrinthine landscapes, from the French Riviera and Morocco to Tuscany and Sri Lanka. Her enchanting escapades conclude with a glossary of terminology used by perfumers. (Feb. 3)

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Kirkus Reviews
A tantalizing introduction to the world of fragrances. A few years ago, British artist and journalist Lyttelton got the idea to have a perfume created for her. The memory of her grandmother's "rich peppery and rose scent," coupled with her own sense of adventure, inspired the author not only to have her own "bespoke" (custom-made) scent developed but to trace each of her fragrance's "notes," or elements, from their countries of origin to their finished state in her perfume. Lyttelton's journey started with a perfumer in London and ended with the arrival from the lab of her personal fragrance, blended from the exotic ingredients she'd collected: "granules of frankincense and myrrh from Socotra; Indian vetivert and jasmine; the finest attars of roses from Turkey; a mimosa absolute from Grasse; Moroccan vials of neroli and petitgrain; Tuscan orris butter; Sri Lankan nutmeg oil; and, rarest of all, ambergris from the Arabian Sea." The author's olfactory odyssey provides the perfect forum for presenting an encyclopedic overview of the history of perfumery and introducing the layperson to the wonderfully sonorant lexicon comprising the language of the nose. No other context would be so apt for her provocative description of scents-the "buttery pulverulence" of mimosa, for example-and fascinating assemblage of perfume-related trivia. "Napoleon poured an entire bottle of cologne over his head every morning," Lyttelton informs us. Later, we learn that "in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene anoints Christ's feet with spikenard; the repentant prostitute became the patron saint of perfumers." The author also conveys what she has learned about the cultural and literal value of her various scents intheir native locales. In Socotra, "toddlers had pouches of myrrh pinned to their bibs to ward off illness and evil spirits"; in Morocco, the very rich literally eat perfume, "so that their whole body smells of scent from within"; and in Tuscany, orris absolute costs about $40,000 per kilo, "three times more than its own weight in gold."Intimate and robust.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451226242
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/3/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 982,457
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Celia Lyttelton has written numerous articles for such publications as Tatler, Vanity Fair, Independent, Daily Telegraph, and Financial Times.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A wonderful journey

    Like a chef wanting to assemble the finest ingredients for a main course, Celia Lyttleton in her quest to craft her own original perfume, goes on an odyssey to discover the lineage of the specific "notes" (base scents) she has chosen to create the harmony of her own perfect fragrance. In her skillful narrative, the reader is plunged into the erotic, heady, and healing history of the spice trade and perfume industry. From the Iris fields in Tuscany, to the perfume factories in Grasse, to the spice markets of Egypt and beyond, Celia is the perfect guide to the nuances of exoticism and cultural textures, superbly captured and related into a vivid and evocative imagery. A remarkable book, and upon reaching the end of the story, ordinary life for the moment seems less flavorful.

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