The Secret Life of Scent
Why include a book on fragrance in website on beer? First, 80% of what we taste comes from what we smell. Honing our understanding of smell and fragrance expands out understanding of taste. Second, Mandy Aftel is an artisan perfumer. In Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent Aftel follows the history of 5 fragrances - cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris and jasmine and presents fascinating stories about where they come from and what we need to do to get the raw materials for the fragrance. Aftel discusses their qualities and discusses how she uses them to construct a perfume. She discusses the layers, shapes, memories and feelings of a scent and discusses how she uses top notes, middle notes and base notes to shape and balance the scent. For each fragrance she provides perfume recipes and discusses how she uses them in building a perfume. Her thought processes on how to construct a perfume parallel the processes a brewer uses in developing a hop bill or looking at ways to develop the aromas and flavors of a beer. Mead and cider makers might also go through the same processes. Aftel's discussion of fragrance families might provoke new ideas about how to add herbs and spices to a beer, cider or mead or how to tweak various hop additions to develop harmonious fragrances and flavors. At several points she emphasizes that while a small dose of a certain fragrance might make the perfume as a whole pop, too much might make it down right revolting. After stresses the importance of rigorous editing - nothing goes into a perfume that does not have its place and the various elements of the perfume must balance and appear natural and harmonious. As well as laying out the principles for developing an alluring fragrance, Aftel presents a variety of methods, such as tincturing, for capturing a scent of flavor for its optimal use. She also teaches what to look for in a fragrance. This is an important, well written and well thought out book. It might kick your sense of smell up a notch and at least expand your appreciation of the aromas and fragrances around you.