Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume

ISBN: 0865475539
ISBN 13: 9780865475533
By: Mandy Aftel

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Reader's Thoughts


This is a pretty interesting book about smells. Nice smells. Written by an author who is passionate but, if I remember correctly, very slightly overbearing.


A very sensual book that can inspire a new hobby.


Reading this book was a direct result of my new obsession with the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a boutique perfume oil company that I just ADORE. There's lots of practical information, a big helping of encouragement to experiment, and lots of good mythological and historical tidbits.


If you are interested in this topic, this is a good book with lots of illustrations.


Very very interesting. Read it while re-reading Jitterbug perfume and at the same time we discovered


This is a cross between a layman's textbook on perfume (including resources for the beginning perfumer, and a recipe to create as you progress through the book) and a philosophical treatise on the intersections of perfume with alchemy, spirituality, and sex. It covers the history of perfumery fairly widely, but not in great depth. I'd buy a copy of this purely for the bibliography.


I eventually lost interest and stopped reading this book.


so far so bad. assumption-laden and factoid ridden. irritating and ill-informed. there's some fascinating writing about olfactory processing in humans. this is not it.I plugged on for a while as she has a vast collection of antiquarian perfume and alchemy books. I had a vain hope some distillate of that history might have infused these pages.

Dave Johnson

my journey with fragrances has been an interesting one, indeed. without going into my whole story, i used to not like them, then i got mildly interested around the time i met my wife. a few months ago, i became extremely interested, and now i'm part of a whole fragrance community on Youtube (just look up FragranceBros). i thought it would be an interesting video to do a review of a fragrance book, and also another good idea to do a vid on a brief history of fragrance. i saw this book, grabbed it for my Kindle for cheap, and was blown away by all that i read. there is absolutely a wealth of history with fragrance. in a way, this book is deceptive in that it says that it covers a history of fragrance---and it does--but it is so much more than that. the author, Mandy Aftel is also a perfumier, and it seems like she trained herself in the art. but besides just giving a history lesson, she talks about her journey through fragrance, gives her tips and suggestions about how to smell and what to look for, and if that wasnt good enough, she even EXPLAINS HOW TO MAKE FRAGRANCES! this is incredible! she goes in depth about all the major fragrance notes and tells you what you need and which essences to get when making fragrances. it's just an invaluable guide. and i think that's the best term for this book: a guide. i'll come back to this book as a reference in the future. the biggest downside to this book is that she breaks up the history throughout the book. i really wished that she kept the history in a few chapters and everything else somewhere else. i can see why she DIDNT do this, however, because she would have had people saying this was two books in one, one useful and the other not useful (depending on your perspective of each). the other downside is that she really goes in depth about alchemy--which is cool as a medium of history-telling, but to repeatedly come back to it throughout the book is tiring. and i also understand why goes off on metaphorical tangents, but, again, it's tiring. when i saw her start to get metaphorical, i just started skimming. all in all, a wonderful gem of a book. well worth it if you have an iota of interest in fragrance and history.


This book was extremely helpful to learn how to make your own perfume. I loved this book. :)

Tristan Tarwater

Read this book as an intro to perfumery and scent. Enjoyed the narrative and information there. Not a recipe book by any means but a good read.


I picked this up at an airport bookshop ... I believe it was on our way back from Europe that one time when we went. An interesting look at the history and making of perfumes. It actually inspired me for a few months to try making my own.


Gorgeous writing and excellent instruction for any interested in learnign to craft natural perfume. It is not a comprehensive work on the art, but it is an inspiring starting point and has been a valuable resource to me in my blending.

Lana Zoubkov

It was my first book on perfume and I think it was a great introduction for someone who would like not only enjoy perfume but also experiment creating my own signature fragrance.

Patricia Joynton

I read this book b/c my daughter Stefanie and I were going on a trip in California to a naturalist place and making perfume was an activity of the resort we were going to. I was getting ready for the trip, but then a mud slide took out the road to the resort and we had to cancel.Glad I found it. Think I will make my own from my garden. I've always considered fragrance when I order my plants, especially roses.

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